Toxicity of male relationships (movie's): 4
Toxicity of male relationships (Greg's): 4
I've loved all The Trip movies, mostly for the humour. Each has been conceived and executed primarily and effectively as a vessel for the amusing interplay of the twin leads, comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon.
I'm not sure if the sense of pathos has increased over the decade since the release of the first film or if it's just increasingly obvious as I age but, in this latest movie, Steve Coogan's father dies and the guys, normally endlessly verbose, have nothing to say. Two men, four movies, a decade's worth of jokes and banter, rendered silent by death, the most essential part of life.
I found this situation very uncomfortable and distressing and familiar: the idea that two male friends might be unable to connect in any situation unsuited to humour.
The next day, I said to Zanna: "Their interaction is never on the level of feelings. It's toxic masculinity in a palatable form. Humour and fun and two guys getting on well but there's something missing and it's the most critical part of life - connecting on an emotional level. They're missing that emotional connection."
She said: "I don't think that's not true. I just feel like you've put more meaning in there than there really was."
It was Sunday morning and I was trying to make pancakes while the kids whined about wanting horse riding lessons, going to Butterfly Creek, having us print out colouring pages for them and wanting drinks, all the while ignoring the fact we were talking. Zanna said: "This is just a terrible time to try and have this conversation and it's making me angry."
That was the last thing I wanted, so I stopped talking and texted a friend who often finds me annoying and asked what he thought of the film. He replied: "It felt a bit too familiar, despite their talent and funnies. The dad dying was something a little different/more resonant … but also a bummer!!! Lol."
I replied: "I was interested in the way their toxic masculine relationship prevented them connecting after the dad's death."
He replied: "That's a good point. You go deep for a little diddle" which was an in-joke about the size of my penis.
My own dad died nearly two years ago. Sometimes it feels a lot shorter.
Sunday morning at the kitchen bench I was surrounded. My 6-year-old's bottom lip was quivering over her relentless requests for horse riding lessons being denied, my 4-year-old was hounding me to google "cute kitten colouring pages" and my 3-year-old was climbing all over me trying to eat my toast. My 43-year-old chose that time to toss me some theories about toxic masculinity in The Trip to Greece and expected that I might have something coherent or even thoughtful to say. I didn't.
Later, in the peace of a school day, I asked Greg if I had seen all four of The Trip films, because they've all blurred into one. He thought so but neither of us were really sure. I know we saw the first one at the NZ International Film Festival when we were dating. I remember because Greg was hopelessly excited and told me that Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, who I didn't know, were hilarious. I went in feeling that whether or not I liked it would be the measure of whether our senses of humour were aligned and could make or break our relationship. I thought it was moderately entertaining.
I definitely laughed more in The Trip to Greece than I did in the previous films and I have to assume that means that Greg and I are slowly morphing into the same person. I most enjoyed their musical bits in the car and was less fond of the leering at waitresses. Director Michael Winterbottom, with his loitering shots of women sunbathing on rocks, has a conspicuous male gaze in his film-making that I don't think is knowing.
But what I found the most challenging was the tonal shifts. It happens troublingly with a refugee early on, and then most noticeably when Coogan's father dies. There's always been a sort of sombre undercurrent in The Trip films but this was quite jarring, not least because of the heavy-handed orchestral score.
For us, it was a bit close to home too. I was acutely aware that it was difficult for Greg to watch and was half expecting him to turn it off.
Of course, this is life: Moments of joy and laughter, interrupted - sometimes without warning - by periods of deep sadness and grief and in that way The Trip to Greece is a poignant exploration of the peaks and troughs of human emotion. It is a comedy though, a funny one, just not one that you're going to come out of smiling.
The Trip to Greece is in cinemas now.