The Guilt Trip
Andy Brewster (played by a sadly tired-looking Seth Rogen) is an organic chemist who has just invented an environmentally-friendly cleaning fluid. We meet him on the edge of failure, as he plans a cross-country road-trip with the sole intention of pitching to and subsequently bagging a big-named store that will take on the selling of the product for him. As a way to appease his over-involved mother, Joyce (Streisand), Andy decides to start the trip with a weekend back home.
The visit brings to light a hitherto unknown story from her past about a lost love, giving Andy the idea that a happy-ending for her will mean a peaceful life for him. To implement the scheme he invites her along on his 8 day journey under the guise of wanting to spend more time with her. What follows is a formulaic rendition of the dramedy: familial tensions grow to snapping point, leading to the typical spat that’s filled with a few good home-truths. Cut to a peppering of ‘touching’ moments which allow the characters to discover the other’s worth in time for an ending where everyone is still really the same but, nevertheless, have a better-than-ever relationship for it.
Fletcher’s previous directorial work includes Step Up, 27 Dresses and The Proposal (in that order), so you shouldn’t be all that surprised that The Guilt Trip is neither an interesting piece of film making nor a particularly exciting watch. But the problem lies deeper, with a script that is just a whole lot of bland wrapped up in tableau of antique cliches. Dan Fogelman was responsible for last year’s Crazy Stupid Love, so we know he is capable of much better in this genre, and seeing as this was apparently based on the real-life trip he went on with his own mother, it certainly would seem that all the necessary material is on hand to craft a uniquely humorous and significantly poignant tale. Disappointingly, it achieves neither goal.
Posters for The Guilt Trip make the promise of being “packed with laugh-out-laughs”. If Barbra Streisand in permanent manic mode is the kind of thing that pushes off your giggle button then yes, this will undoubtedly have you rolling in the aisles. As for me, I spent most of its 95 minute length in a state of extreme irritation. Streisand’s Joyce has a rather bad case of motor-mouth, an affliction that means she yammers on incessantly for about 90% of the movie. There are plenty of those “Oh mother…” comments and even a few “MOTHER!” instances that might make you smirk once or twice, but beyond that your cinema (if it was anything like mine) will be a veritable graveyard of silence.
For his part, Seth Rogen really does nothing to help. Andy comes across as self-absorbed and self-entitled, suffering quietly (with much eye-rolling) under all the love and attention his mother bestows upon him. Yes, there will be a point where you want to pat him on the back for holding his tongue for as long as he does but that will go to war with the impulse to smack him up the head for being an insolent little douche the rest of the time. Beyond that, his role seems to be relegated to that of the reactionary agent, with Babs taking centre stage and Rogen coming of looking restrained and subdued. If you’re going in with the expectation of his usual highly inappropriate and sometimes outrageous hilarity you will be greatly disappointed. On the other hand, it’s a fairly safe bet that you won’t find yourself cringing in embarrassment when you take your mum to see it.
As easy as it would be to completely trash The Guilt Trip, I have to admit that it does manage to find a few of your heartstrings during the last half-an-hour, inducing a few begrudging “Awww…” moments. This isn’t because the characters themselves become more endearing/less superficial, but rather because you’ll find yourself thinking of your own mother. She may drive you utterly crazy with all the best of intentions but in the end there will never be anyone quite like her. And it is for this very reason why I have felt compelled to give The Guilt Trip a half a star more than it truly deserves, ‘coz anything that reminds you of why you love your mummy can’t be all that bad, can it?