GUILT TRIP, THE
Clever young chemical engineer Andy Brewster (Seth Rogen) is about to embark on a road trip from New York across the US to try and sell his brilliant new, organic and effective cleaning solution to various major retailers. After hearing his widowed - and overbearing - mother Joyce (Barbra Streisand) tell him about a pre-marital romance with a man named Andy, Andy invites her to join him on the trip, secretly hoping to reunite the long separated lovers in San Francisco - and who knows....? But his well meaning gesture comes at a cost as Joyce nags him all the way for almost 5,000 kms; on the other hand, she isn't as silly as she sometimes sounds.
Review by Louise Keller:
An opportunity for bite is lost in this compelling pairing of Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen, whose joint range and capacity is hardly scratched in this amiable road movie about mother and son relationships. It's a surprisingly mild and often sentimental screenplay by Dan Fogelman (Cars and Cars 2) while the pace effected by director Anne Fletcher (27 Dresses, The Proposal) is leisurely, rather than feisty. I would have liked to have seen Streisand and Rogan in a darkly cutting piece, allowing Streisand's mother Joyce to be more than simply a caricature of a nagging mother who flaps around her son constantly (with the best intentions, of course), while Andy (Rogan) rolls his eyes in embarrassment. Nonetheless, the film is easy to watch with a few memorable key scenes and Streisand watchers (of which I admit to be) will be interested to watch the diva in one of her rare screen roles, cameos aside.
The film's two best scenes are the most unexpected. The first shows Streisand drinking martinis in the lounge of the cheap motel in which Joyce and Andy are booked after a major falling out between the two, when motherly love goes one step too far. (Andy is drowning his sorrows in a glass of scotch after a failed sales presentation), while Joyce keeps harping on about the need to keep hydrated when drinking alcohol. For the first time in the film, it shows Joyce as a person in her own right and not an emotional slave to her grown up son. The other is an eating contest at a Texan steak house in which Joyce attempts to consume a massive steak that weighs as much as a poodle - before a captive audience. There's an edginess and unpredictability about both - which is why they work.
The rest of the film is standard fare, establishing the push-pull relationship between mother and son and that both genuinely care about the other. In particular, the film concentrates on Joyce's concern that Andy does not have a relationship and visa versa. This is the context in which the road trip comes about. Rogan is pretty tame throughout, never injecting the kind of grit of which he is capable, while Streisand steals our attention as the overbearing mother who can't help herself. Although it should be said that Streisand manages to bring genuine warmth to the role and those misty-eyed moments have a sense of truth about them. The film's resolution is a pleasant surprise and lift; it's a shame there are not more such twists - it could have been a scorcher.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The fact that Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen are executive producers (raising the money) tells us that they are wholly committed to this project - and it shows in their performances. As Joyce, Streisand is suitably irritating as she nags her son half to death with loving and caring advice and a thousand phone calls a day. And as Andy, Rogen is perfectly cast as the slightly nerdy, still-single-at-38 chemical engineer without a real life.
The dialogue is zippy and often amusing, but the screenplay relies too much on its single premise, which doesn't have the depth or layers to fully carry the film - even at just 95 minutes it plays long. It's tempting to speculate that Dan Fogelman's script had as many notes as Joyce gives Andy, a suspicion supported by the odd disconnect between the film's title and official synopsis, and the final result.
Guilt doesn't seem to play any part in Andy's motivation to include his mother in the cross country road trip; he's trying to reconnect her with her first flame, after whom he was named Andy. He has tracked the man down in San Francisco ... but doesn't immediately tell Joyce of his plan.
The pair keep us amused as they hit roadside motels with pole dancing girls, a Texan steak house with a tempting offer involving the consumption of a massive (50 oz) steak and accompaniments, as well as a couple of disastrous pitches which prove Andy to be no salesman. Joyce gets this and tries to help, but Andy is stubborn as well as nerdy.
The anticipation builds as we get closer to San Francisco and that original Andy, and despite a bit of a directorial fumble, we stay with it - only to be surprised by what's in store for Joyce and Andy.
Likeable and entertaining, The Guilt Trip isn't quite the blast it could have been, but it uses the tools of commercial filmmaking to give audiences a lift at the end.
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GUILT TRIP, THE (M)
CAST: Barbra Streisand, Seth Rogen, Kathy Najimi, Colin Hanks, Adam Scott, Miriam Margolyes, Vicky Goldsmith
PRODUCER: Evan Goldberg, John Goldwyn, Lorne Michaels
DIRECTOR: Anne Fletcher
SCRIPT: Dan Fogelman
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Oliver Stapleton
EDITOR: Dana E. Glauberman, Priscilla Nedd-Friendly
MUSIC: Christophe Beck
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Nelson Coates
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 24, 2013