This is the smartest movie of the season (albeit a dull season). I loved every second watching these two mid-life friends driving, eating and performing through the lustrous landscape of Northern England; it a tour de force; dialogue brilliantly written (Michael Winterbottom, “Tristram Shandy”) and delivered by Steve Coogan (playing himself) and Rob Brydon (playing himself).
Steve, an actor of mediocre caliber has been asked to critique effete restaurants in the Lake District of Northern England; his femme fatale of the moment has resigned from the role of romantic partner and desperate for companionship, rejected by hordes, he convinces Rob, an impressionist/impersonator to accompany him on this delectable pilgrimage.
The cuisine, immaculately presented is inconsequential to these boys, bantering through every course; instead of the ubiquitous towers of gooey scallops, bangers, fish and chips would have been the more appropriate fare. Their succinct impersonations of Liam Nesson, Michael Caine, Hugh Grant, Roger Moore, Woody Allen are hilarious. English literature aficionados will melt with appreciation as portions of Wordsworth and Coleridge spring from their loquacious minds and tongues; their ceaseless, competitive repartee defines their friendship.
Their friendship is the core of the film; no longer children but miraculously they have retained the gift, many times lost in adulthood, of play, of having fun, laughing at their circumstances with and at each other. One of the key scenes is their mutual eulogy , standing in a graveyard; we have all wondered what it would be like to be in attendance at one’s funeral and listen to the bards champion our talents, failings.
Steve and Rob are men still in the throws of discovery; one happily married with a child, the other divorced with children. It is their humanness and humor that is attractive; they are interesting, entertaining; how may times have we suffered the boring, cheerless dinner companion regardless of his/her success who will not recall meeting you a day later. Steve and Rob are worth falling into the unrecognizable because they make you laugh; laughter the aphrodisiac of the spirit.
One of my favorite songs for over thirty years is Abba’s “The Winner Takes It All”; lyrically one of the greatest expressions of pathos, pain, loss of love ever written; hundreds of times I have heard it and each time hair rises, eyes well and with a voice cursed and toneless I belt, regardless of the audience those perfect sentiments of truth, inevitability, resignation: “the winner takes it all, the loser stands so small, the winner takes it all, the loser has to fall”. Steve and Rob create their own rendition, coated with the sweetness, the bitterness, the disappointments, the disillusionments of lives lived, hearts torn, dreams dashed but the ephemeral triumph, insurmountable joy of just being alive, aglow with friendship, a week never to be repeated but regardless of their future, if only for a moment, winners taking, basking in it all.
FOUR STARS!!!! (Out of Five)