(n.b. Yes, the festival wrapped yesterday; I have a mighty backlog of these to work through.)
I went to Italy once. It was a pretty good trip.
Not, I should say, nearly as good as Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon's trip, which involves much more Michael Caine and Alanis Morissette and fewer museums. (Museums are great, though.)
As a sequel to a 2010 TV series/film (The Trip, aptly), The Trip to Italy has the same humorous bite as its four year old sibling; it's as hilarious as ever to watch semi-rivals Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon bounce off each other, and as expected, celebrity impressions and food pornography abound. (Yt. recalls a lot of scallops in The Trip, and don't get me wrong scallops are great. But come on, Rob Brydon, variety!)
But four years is a long time, and it shows. Steve Coogan (the fictional one) has softened a bit, having reached (probably) the terminus of his character from A Cock and Bull Story. He's entering into a sort of indefinite "hiatus" from his American TV show but seems mostly okay with that; his once-complicated love life has gotten figured out, and he's on good terms with his son.
Rob Brydon, on the other hand, has evidently taken over Coogan's mantle as Brittle Midlife Crisis Man. In clipped telephone conversations, his home life sounds messy, his wife distant from him, him distant from her. And while as outwardly lighthearted as ever, he seems to have kind of an edge now, best summarized in a bit where he repeatedly, aggressively insists upon his affability to Coogan.
Not that he's become a total wad, but the edge is more overt than in previous films. It is kind of a bit different for director Michael Winterbottom; A Cock and Bull Story and The Trip were nothing if not extremely understated character dramas. There are no huge blowouts in The Trip to Italy. But the one-upmanship that has defined this fictional Coogan-Brydon relationship feels a little more desperate—especially when you consider that Coogan has basically withdrawn and it's just Brydon, now, trying e.g. to be the one to pick up the most women.
Something that hasn't changed: Michael Winterbottom continues to leave no easy way out for his characters. Coogan's character in A Cock and Bull Story and The Trip eventually came to some significant self-revelatory decisions, but all the self-revelation didn't stop him from having to pay the consequences, so to speak. Yt. assumes the same with Brydon, who makes some Probably Bad Decisions, though we are left at guessing the aftereffects. (Life, innit.) Given the wild popularity of The Trip series, I hope there'll be a third—well, technically fourth—movie-TV-thing with these characters (The Trip to Barcelona, maybe?) to tie everything off. A comedy threequel just sounds like a disaster, actually, but heck, another four years and maybe I'll want more British people doing funny voices. Until then, some pasta and an Alannis Morissette album will do just fine.