The Guilt Trip is something of a mixed bag. On one hand it has the combined talents of Seth Rogen and Barbara Streisand, who work terrifically off of one another, and on the other it’s not all that different from other road movies we have seen in the past. It’s a little hard to argue with anything these two actors do, and that’s especially the case with Streisand, who has her first lead role here in a movie since 1996’s The Mirror Has Two Faces. While The Guilt Trip may win over a lot of people who are eager to see a heartwarming comedy during the Holiday season, it is in the end a hit and miss comedy that misses more than it hits.
Rogen plays Andy Brewster, an inventor who is busy peddling his new cleaning product Scioclean to anyone and everyone. However, Andy is not having a lot of luck in selling it and has only his mother Joyce (Streisand) to cheer him on. Joyce is the kind of the mother who leaves an endless number of messages on her son’s answering machine and never knows when to let go, so it’s easy to understand why Andy is a bit exasperated about flying out to the East Coast to visit her.
We soon learn that Andy was named after Joyce’s first boyfriend, a man who is not his father. This leads to Andy looking him up. In doing so, Andy finds that the man works at a company in San Francisco. And, as expected, Andy invites his mother to join him on a cross country trip to the West Coast to reunite her with her old flame, while doing it on the pretense of her helping him to sell his cleaning product.
Now, we all know what happens from there: the duo end up driving each other crazy with their needs and worries as they travel across the highways of America. They complain and bicker with one another throughout, but they do come to realize just how much they rely on one another at the very end. Yes, it’s that kind of movie.
Dan Fogelman, who wrote the screenplay, based the story on a car trip he once took with his own mother. You can feel the personal feelings he gets across in his screenplay here, and that definitely makes this a sweet movie to say the least. However, Fogelman can’t get past the usual conventions that road movies have to offer, so everything feels blunted by a formula we are all too familiar with. Thoughts of Thelma & Louise keep passing through our heads, and that at times make The Guilt Trip a little more disturbing than it has any right to be.
Directing The Guilt Trip is Anne Fletcher, who directed both Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds to great success in The Proposal. Fletcher keeps things here as lively as she can, and she does score a number of feel good moments that audiences will enjoy. Overall though, the direction feels a bit bland and you come out of the film feeling like it could have been a whole lot better had a more experienced director been at the helm.
When it comes to the acting, both Rogen and Streisand are well-matched and work off of each other brilliantly, and you do have to give them credit for balancing out the comedy and drama elements in The Guilt Trip as well as they do. Rogen has been accused at times of just playing the same character in every movie he does, but that’s really not fair. While he brings the same comic energy to this role as he has to others, he also gives one of his more mature performances here and makes you sympathize with Andy’s plight.
As for Streisand, this is probably the most unglamorous role she has had in quite some time. But even having said that, she still looks beautiful without being covered with an immense amount of makeup, and she never fails to give a winning performance in anything she does. Streisand helps to give The Guilt Trip the warmth a comedy like this deserves, and she can make you smile and break your heart with just a single look.
In many ways, Rogen and Streisand almost make The Guilt Trip worth the price of admission, and it’s worth it to stay through the end credits to see some of their inspired improvisations which didn’t make the final cut. There’s no doubt that the film will appeal to those who like their comedies sweet and moving, and a lot of people are bound to enjoy it for what it is. But for others who have viewed many road movies, they will find that they have been down this road one too many times.