The Guilt Trip
Road trip movies and buddy comedies get a delightful spin in the Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen comedy "The Guilt Trip." Written by screenwriter Dan Fogelman ("Tangled") who based the script on his experiences with his own mother, the film is part-loving ode to mothers and sons and part-exploration on how we look (or don't) at the people we love. Director Anne Fletcher, whose films have been fluffy, but entertaining nonetheless, ("The Proposal," "27 Dresses") has crafted a nifty film with a peppy pace and allowed both Rogen and Streisand to ad-lib their way through the insightful script by Fogelman.
The set-up (and entire film) is simple: Rogen plays Andy Brewster, a scientist who has created a cleaning product that is so organic you can drink it. He's spent nearly all his money on developing the product he calls "ScieoClean" (which becomes a running gag) and has set up meetings with companies all across the U.S. in hoping to get one of them to carry it.
He starts his journey on the East Coast where he goes to visit his single mother Joyce, played by Streisand. Making a wise choice, Fletcher has Streisand underplay the "Jewishness" of her character rather than amp it up for over-the-top comedic effect.
This makes Streisand a real person rather than a stereotype. Here she dotes on her son who finds her endless phone calls and questions annoying. But when she tells him of her first true love, he gets an idea and asks her to come along on his road trip. Before you can say "oy," the two head out on a cross-country journey.
Joyce, of course, continues to nag, but she does so in such a genial and amusing fashion she isn’t annoying. Yet to her son, anything weird that his mother does will be maddening. Actually, this is a clever point, because in many films the irritating character that bugs another is usually really irritating. Here, mama Joyce isn’t so much annoying as just being a mother who misses relishing attention on her son.
She’s also someone who is well into her own life-routine, which Andy understandably finds a nuisance. Whether it is eating Peanut M&M’s right before bed, or listening to a lengthy book on tape, Joyce has her ways. It’s just a question if Andy can make room for them or not.
Rogen underplays his usual crudeness and gives a softer performance while not losing his humorous exasperation with mom. Things do come to a head in a telling scene that will speak volumes to many children and their parents. This is a comedy, so we know it will all end somewhat fine and never really veer into unknown territory; but the ad-libbing by the film’s stars and the general good-naturedness of the film itself is incredibly refreshing.
I was completely charmed -- Streisand and Rogen have amazing chemistry. There’s nothing mean-spirited, a trait that seems to be the norm in film comedies these days. You feel good watching it and have a lightness to your step when you walk out. At the same time it’s not so overly pleasant that it fades away when it’s over. There are some real emotions going on here and the tears that might spring from your eyes are genuine rather than manipulative. This is probably the most charming movie I’ve seen in years and a must-see for mothers and sons, fathers and daughters, and any combination in between. It’s a total treat for the holiday season.