"Desperate to be taken seriously aren't you?" Rob Brydon wryly points out to Steve Coogan in Michael Winterbottom's sublime mid-life crisis comedy, which is a boozy, barbed blend of Sideways, Withnail and I and Curb Your Enthusiasm (the story is fictional but based around their real personas).
Coogan's been commissioned to write food reviews for The Observer and is keen to take his glamorous girlfriend. Unfortunately, she bails on him, fleeing to the US. So, he asks his "pal" Brydon instead: "I've asked other people but they're not available." Their querulous road trip around the Lake District's swankiest restaurants mercifully avoids farce, but is full of sniping and competitive impersonating. Particularly memorable are their Michael Caines, Liam Neesons and a James Bond, Scaramanga-off: "Come, come, Mr Bond, you derive just as much pleasure from killing as I do."
It's very funny, but also oddly moving. Coogan looks lost. He's separated from his children, his love life is slipping, his career is gliding nowhere; he feels like he's "being trampled by hares". Brydon is happier, relishing the free meals.
A beautifully paced comedy and the best thing Michael Winterbottom's been involved with since Wonderland.
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