Dir: Jérôme le Maire. Belgium 2011. 98mins.
The male mid-life malaise is seen from a boozy Belgian perspective in The Big Trip (Le Grand Tour), a leisurely road movie with mock-doc trimmings. Jérôme le Maire’s affable, semi-improvised effort is as much an outward-bound experiment as a narrative proper, but thin dramatic rewards won’t help sales. Interesting, if not remarkable, hybrid qualities – plus a cast presumably game to pitch up and recall their adventures – hold out respectable fest prospects.
The Big Trip works best if approached as performance art, with the heroes’ experiences - so it appears - closely mirroring the circumstances of its making.
Punctuated by talking-head interviews with the characters, the story involves 12 middle-aged men, members of an informal carnival troupe who get together to don bright red costumes, bang drums and swill gallons of beer. After one event – real carnivals serve as locations throughout – they’re enjoying themselves too much to stop, so they walk on in search of another shindig.
Then they keep walking, fuelled by ale and drugs – and its five weeks before anyone thinks of phoning home. As months pass, much burping and falling over ensues, to diminishing comic returns. It’s a long while before real dramatic content emerges, as the ever-dwindling, ever more unshaven troupe face an uncertain future.
One drawback of the film’s ad hoc style is that little character differentiation emerges among the troupe – the only members with strong traits are troubled leader Vincent (Solheid) and gentle giant Pinard (Henarard). The narrative is implausible (did their families never think to track down this conspicuous dozen?) and the exclusively male cast makes oppressively boisterous company.
The insight into Euro carnival culture is unusual and the landscapes often remarkable, but as a study of unruly male bonding, the film is barely more insightful than the average Vince Vaughan buddy pic. The Big Trip works best if approached as performance art, with the heroes’ experiences - so it appears - closely mirroring the circumstances of its making.
Production company/sales: La Parti Production
Producers: Philippe Kauffman, Vincent Tavier, Benjamine de Cloedt, Jérôme le Maire, Vincent Solheid
Screenplay: Jérôme le Maire, Vincent Solheid, Benjamine de Cloedt
Cinematography/editor: Jérôme le Maire
Production designer: Benjamine de Cloedt
Music: Pierre Kissling
Main cast: Vincent Solheid, Christian Henarard, Denis Burton, Pierre Fontaine, Emmanuel Lawarée