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Marcianne Miller

The Trip to Greece, TV series final episode

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I had high expectations for The Trip to Greece, the fourth and last outing of the popular culinary travelogues with dueling Brit wits Steve Coogan (Stan & Ollie 2018) and Rob Brydon (Holmes & Watson 2018). After having enjoyed England, Italy, and Spain, the duo sets out to retrace--in six days-- the 10-year journey of Odysseus from the war in Troy to his home in Ithaca. Yes, an impossible task.

Coogan and Brydon, wondrously talented performers with healthy egos, play fictional versions of themselves. Which means they compete for center stage in everything they do, from impersonating other actors to high diving from seaside cliffs--and grab chances to act out what they wouldn’t do in real life.

The buddies are cooped up in a car together for long drives. To survive, they resort to endless verbal jousting. In fact, you soon realize, bickering is their addiction. They never shut up. They’re too busy bickering to notice the incredible food they are served at fantastic restaurants along the way. We never see a closeup of the food on their plates, just quick shots of high-pressure gourmet cooking in different unnamed kitchens.

Worse, they visit some of the most incredible ruins in the world and barely notice them. Instead, they seem to be speed-walking in the shadows of the legendary creators of western comedy and drama. Writer/director Michael Winterbottom (Greed 2019) is known for encouraging his actors to improvise. All well and good--and that’s also why you need a good editor who’s not afraid to leave the boring stuff on the cutting room floor.

The natural scenery is fantastic—nothing in the world like the light in Greece--and you stay with the movie because you’re hoping for more footage of ancient sites. Or at least a moment of silence. Instead, you get intercut scenes of the men’s different families back home in Britain. And then there’s Coogan’s nightmare of going down the River Styx while his father is dying. We get it--recreating an ancient Hero’s Journey has relevance for today’s middle-age blokes, but that doesn’t mean it’s anything to write home about.

Partial list of locations: ancient sites of the temple of Apollo at Delphi, the Agora of Athens, the theatre of Epidaurus, as well as the famous caves of Diros and the island of Hydra.

The Trip to Greece premiers on May 22, 2020, and all series episodes are available on the usual digital platforms.

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Thanks for the quick review and nudge regarding the upcoming release date. This Winterbottom sequence has been a highlight for me over the past years. Everything you are describing in terms of how oblivious they are to cultural sites and historical detail rings true relative to past journeys. But a few of the other elements you are describing in terms of the intercuts and a nightmare sequence sound a bit different.

Coogan was great in Winterbottom's recent Greed, which is well worth tracking down.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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