Returning to the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center on Wednesday, Sept. 20, is “The Trip to Spain,” which opened last week’s International Film Festival. Starring comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, the mockumentary is the third film originating from a British TV series. The first was “The Trip,” and the second, “The Trip to Italy,” played at the film center in 2014.
The format for on-the-road films was originated in the 1940s by comedian Bob Hope, who made seven similar films. In “The Trip to Spain,” the two buddies, playing fictionalized versions of themselves, set out to sample haute cuisine throughout Spain for a week. Coogan, who received best film and best writing, adapted screenplay Oscar nominations in 2014 for “Philomena,” starring Judi Dench, plays top dog to Brydon’s more relaxed companion.
The trip gives Coogan a chance to gather material for a novel fashioned after Laurie Lee’s 1969 memoir, “As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning.” For Brydon, it’s a chance to take a break from the demands of raising two small children. The two men trade witty quips and compete with impersonations of actors like Michael Caine and Marlon Brando. Now in their 50s, the two are both facing middle age, and that theme underlies the film. For instance, they ponder how Mick Jagger can father another child at age 72.
Coogan struggles with a stalling career. His latest film project, titled “Missing,” seems to be on hold, with a new writer brought on board for polishing, much to Coogan’s indignation. Also floundering is his romance with a married actress who announces she’s pregnant. His agent has transferred to another firm without telling Coogan, who’s left with an assistant agent. Unlike the more laid-back Brydon, an insecure Coogan needs to remind everyone of his past successes.
Coogan’s and Brydon’s rivalry includes trading bits of Spanish history and culture while dining on elaborately presented meals. They also talk about Miguel de Cervantes, and his legendary novel “Don Quixote,” dressing up at one point as Quixote (Coogan) and Sancho Panza (Brydon) for publicity photos. Coogan’s discussion of the Moors leads to Brydon’s extensive and silly impersonation of “James Bond” star Roger Moore. More impersonations include those of Sean Connery, Ian McKellen, and Anthony Hopkins.
Director Michael Winterbottom livens up the narrative thread with cuts back and forth to chefs in the kitchen, other diners, and phone conversations. Cinematographer James Clarke contributes breathtaking shots of the Spanish countryside and towns. Coogan’s and Brydon’s dry British humor will appeal to many, while others may find that “The Trip to Spain” goes on too long for their taste.
Information and tickets for this and other M.V. Film Center and Capawock films are available at mvfilmsociety.com.