The Guilt Trip feels like the result of a “how to we reintroduce Barbara Streisand to a 2012” studio working group – their answer “make her Seth Rogen’s mother.” The one time screen diva is back in her first substantial role in decades; but unfortunately The Guilt Trip is broad slop that extinguishes the charm of the once stratospheric star.
Andy (Rogen) invents a new organic cleaning product and he plans a sales trip across America, with a pit stop to visit his widowed mother Joyce (Streisand). Andy can’t resist inviting Joyce on the trip as a means to reunite her with her former love. Let the nagging ensue.
Director Anne Fletcher fails to bring any semblance of reality to the lives of the characters or locals throughout. The wardrobe that’s meant to evoke ‘daggy’ is in mint condition. Every location feels sanitised and distractingly staged; especially in a scene in a topless bar where all of the strippers are wearing oversized modesty bikinis. Screenwriter Dan Fogelman loads up the script with little cheeky and subtle one-liners but instead of letting them lie and be absorbed by the audience, he hogties you and ‘waterboards’ you into acknowledgement, via repetition and shtick. Every embarrassing mother gag (job interview/strip club/in front of your ex/hotels) is sickeningly familiar, sit-com fodder. The final insult is a scene where the movie side steps into an episode of ‘Man [or Streisand] Vs Food’ where Streisand’s Joyce eats a 50-ounce steak on the stage of a Texas steakhouse. It’s always a bad sign in a 90 minute run time when you’re craving an intermission.
The majority of the film the character Joyce is an overwritten mess; resulting in Streisand delivering a lazy ‘nagging mother’ performance. However, there are some all too brief shining moments where Streisand’s given an opportunity to gesturally enunciate everything her character’s feeling or bring out that sassy broad from yesteryear. She shines so bright that her once titanic stardom leaks through. This reviewer has a lot of time for Seth Rogen and his stoner charms. However, the majority of the film Andy is the downtrodden pathetic son who is lame and contrived. Like his top billed co-star – when there seems to be any brief organic (most likely improvised) moment his natural charm peeks through.
The Guilt Trip fundamentally doesn’t work because the, ‘showbiz royalty,’ aura that surrounds Streisand is antithetical to the modest working class mother that she’s trying to play. As a result the supporting cast, including Rogan feel like they’re walking on eggshells in this aging diva’s star vehicle.
and a half
Directed: Anne Fletcher
Written by: Dan Fogelman
Starring: Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen