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Review: The Guilt Trip – A guilty pleasure

Posted by on December 19, 2012 – 12:03 am

The Guilt Trip© 2012 Paramount Pictures
I’m not a big fan of Barbra Streisand and for me actor Seth Rogen is usually only mildly amusing at best, so I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting much from their new movie about a young man on a cross-country road trip with his doting Jewish mother; but I was pleasantly surprised by how much depth this film contains and how much I enjoyed The Guilt Trip.

Given Rogen’s usual style of sophomoric comedy, I have to give credit to him (as an executive producer) and screenwriter Dan Fogelman (Crazy, Stupid, Love) for showing some restraint with this film and not going full-on stoner road-trip with their story (which is what I had anticipated). Maybe it was Streisand’s involvement that kept them grounded, but The Guilt Trip is a thoughtful, heart-warming and loving nod to older Moms – and it’s pretty darn funny as well.

Rogen plays Andy Brewster, a 30ish bio-chemist who has invented a cleaning product comprised of natural ingredients that he is try to sell to the big supermarket chains across the country. His father died when he was eight years old and he was raised by his very proud mother, Joyce (Streisand), whose world revolves around her only son.

When Andy finds out that he was named after his Mom’s first love, who was not his father, he tracks down the man, who is now a successful businessman, single and living in San Francisco. He decides to bring his Mom along on his sales trip, traveling by car from New York to San Francisco, and then surprising her by meeting up with her long lost love.

The wackiness ensues from that point but almost always with serious underpinnings regarding an adult’s relationship with an older parent; and behind every farcical situation there is an honest look at love, neglect, independence, manipulation, loyalty and all the emotions that typically motivate mother/son dynamics.

The Guilt Trip© 2012 Paramount Pictures
Although I try to remain objective, for me Barbra Streisand is one of those iconic performers whose annoying personal foibles bleed over into their film work, and in her case she is usually too much of an overrated diva for me to get behind and enjoy as an actress – but in The Guilt Trip she completely won me over.

Streisand is one of the last people in the world I’d want to be stuck in a car with, but her performance as Joyce Brewster in this film was wonderful and probably the best thing she’s done since her movie heyday in the late-sixties and early-seventies.

The road-trip movie, where unlikely pairs enjoy misadventures while traversing across the country, is a Hollywood, heck, an American film staple. Some of the best include Rain Man, Sideways and Thelma & Louise; and while The Guilt Trip is not on the same level as those classics, it covers new ground in its genre and is on nearly the same level as Planes, Trains and Automobiles in terms of its heart and humor.

The Guilt Trip is directed by Anne Fletcher (The Proposal) and it strikes just the right entertaining balance between silly and serious, and it is a real cinematic holiday treat for mothers & sons alike.  Grade: 7/10