The Guilt Trip is filmed with a lot of confidence by its director Anne Fletcher, and its two leading stars — Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen — deliver performances that are worthy of their names but are perhaps not worthy enough for their roles.
I did not laugh at all during this comedy, and I’ve made it clear before that if a comedy fails to make people laugh, it ceases to be a comedy altogether. What we have here instead is a routine road trip with a mother and son across America. And we can be sure that by the time the film ends, all issues will be resolved, all dreams will come true, and all the required landmarks will be seen.
Seth Rogen stars as Andy Brewster, a UCLA graduate who’s convinced his new all-organic cleaner will beat all existing competitors as the number one cleaning agent across the country — it’s made from coconut, palm kernels, and SOY! He drifts from company to company pitching his product, all to no avail. His mother tells him he should drink the liquid to prove its merit. He thinks it’s a ridiculous idea. I think it is too. But lo and behold, he listens to his mommy, and you can guess what happens next.
His mother, Joyce, is played by Streisand, who looks young and is spritely for her age. She dotes heavily on her poor boy, and nags till the cows come home and leave again. We learn that her husband is dead and that she named Andy after an old flame who encouraged her to marry her husband. This sets up a subplot that ends in a moment that’s bound to draw a few tears from the women in the audience. I usually tear up at the movies when something sweet pays off, but by the time The Guilt Trip released all its emotion, my patience had run its course.
Here, I’ll tell you why. There is nothing original in Dan Fogelman’s screenplay. Fogelman, who wrote the screenplays for good movies like Cars 2 and Crazy, Stupid, Love, relies too heavily on past buddy road trip movies. I see Todd Phillips’ Due Date here, which means Planes, Trains And Automobiles also lends a hand in the proceedings. Andy and Joyce may share the chemistry, but the script they’re given fails to capitalise on it.
Sadly, it is not the script that grates the most, but the character of Joyce. I have not seen many of Streisand’s pictures, but I have heard her songs and seen her on television. She is a pretty lady with a charming smile, and she displays both gifts in The Guilt Trip. But again, the script lets her down. Joyce is an irritating person. I find it hard to believe that mothers can nag with such extreme frequency. I suppose I grew up with a mother who knew when to press and when to release, so to see Joyce fail time and time again to keep her mouth closed really put me in a tough spot. When Andy has his outburst in a motel room one night, I breathed a sigh of relief and thanked him for doing it first.
The main plot requires Andy to drive to different cities across the country to pitch his cleaning product. Joyce tags along because the script needs two to tango. As I mentioned earlier, this trip is precisely what the doctor ordered. The two butt heads. Joyce has a collection of erotic novel audio CDs that she insists must be played in the car. By the end, it’s Andy who wants to keep the CDs in the machine. Joyce has a slots game on her cellphone; the two end up in Vegas and she gets to slot for real. Naturally, the script writes in a couple of scenes where the two reconcile and realise that they’re good together. I’m not so sure though. When Andy and Joyce depart for UCLA and New Jersey respectively, Joyce says, “I pierced my ears and ate half a cow, I think I can find the gate on my own”. I don’t think she knows that piercing her ears and eating a cow have nothing to do with finding a departure gate.
Best Moment | Nope.
Worst Moment | I’m really struggling to think of one. There are many bad moments. I guess you’ll just have to see the movie and decide for yourself.