The Guilt Trip

Director: Anne Fletcher
Starring: Barbra Streisand, Seth Rogen, and Julene Renee-Preciado
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Runtime: 95 mins. Reviewed in Jan 2013
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Coarse language and sexual references

This American comedy-drama is based on a screenplay written by Dan Fogelman, and tells the story of an inventor, Andy Brewster (Seth Rogen), who invites his widowed mother, Joyce (Barbra Streisand) to share a car journey across America with him for eight days.

The movie is the first leading film role for Streisand (barring ensemble pieces) for 16 years, and is essentially a road movie with a difference, focusing on the relationship between mother and son, who are forced to get to know each other better.

Andy goes on the trip to sell his invention, which turns out to be a drinkable cleaning fluid, but his mother tells him of a lost love she had before she married his father. After Andy calls at his mother’s house to begin his journey and say good-bye he decides to take her with him to find the man his mother loved (also called Andy), whom he never knew existed. Along the way, he meets a kmart receptionist (Julene Renee-Preciado), who is a party to a chain of rejections for the product he is trying to market. He has no success at all with his marketing pitch, until he begins to take his mother’s advice.

The movie has good chemistry between mother and son. There is a constant repartee between Rogen and Streisand that captures intimately the relationship between them, Rogen plays the role of a son “put down” by a wilful mother, but there is never any doubt of the affection between them both. When the time comes for mutual admission of the attachment, it occurs without the sentimentality a film of this kind might otherwise have had.

There is also a certain charm to some of the film’s dramatic moments that flows from the easy relationship that Andy and Joyce forge together. Streisand plays the Jewish mother to stereotype, but not too heavily so, and, Seth Rogen brings excellent timing to his role of the son who would prefer his mother was a little less revealing than she is, especially in public.

The morals of the movie reinforce strong mother-child bonding, but in a very obvious way. The film depends on situational comedy, but you know where it is heading when it shows Andy frequently regressing from adult-hood to being an embarrassed child, trapped by the guilt-producing gaze of a strong Jewish mother who is all-knowing. Reliably, however, the tender, loving relationship between the two main characters comes through.

This is a friendly movie with two seasoned performers, and typical of most road movies, it shows character development of the people who embark on the journey. With a sharper script and more pointed direction, the film could have been much more dramatic than it is, but there are some laugh-aloud comic moments with a lot of smiles in-between, and Streisand looks terrific for a 70-yr. old.

This is a film that has a lot of charm and many sweet moments. It is entertaining and funny, but also predictable.

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