Title: The Guilt Trip
Director: Anne Fletcher
Screenwriter: Dan Fogelman
Cast: Barbra Streisand, Seth Rogen, Yvonne Strahovski, Adam Scott, Colin Hanks, Brett Cullen
Screened at: Regal E-Walk, NYC, 12/12/12
Opens: December 19, 2012
Anne Fletcher’s principal characters in “The Guilt Trip” could probably be credible as an actual mother-son couple in real life. The seventy-year-old Barbra Streisand, after all, was born into a middle-class Jewish family in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, while the thirty-year-old Seth Rogen came of age in Vancouver’s Talmud Torah Elementary School. One might expect an audience for this movie of diverse generations, then, the older folks hoping that maybe Streisand would find an excuse to burst into song while the young ‘uns would want to find Seth Rogen invigorated by a script from Judd Apatow rather than from Dan Fogelman. Alas neither happens, though the movie’s expected “urban” humor is like second-hand Woody Allen, too gentle to be titillating, making “The Guilt Trip” a vehicle for an afternoon soap or evenings when maybe Mike (Biggs) and Molly (Flynn) are out with the flu.
Andrew Brewster (Seth Rogen) is more or less in his element (in real life he had quit school early on to become a stand-up comedian) as an overweight young man who attended school in California because, he says, the place had the country’s best organic chemistry department. His mother, Joyce Brewster (Barbra Streisand), accuses the lad of leaving his New Jersey home to be as far away as he could from mom, laying on the guilt trip of the title. Intimidated, or perhaps lonely, Andrew invites his mom to travel with him by car across country, where he has appointments with corporate big-wigs to show off his invention—a cleaning product with a PH7, not the poisonous kind regularly sold by Costco and KMart, even showing these executive that he can drink the stuff without falling down dead.
At first he has reasons to regret his invitation, sharing motel rooms with his mother, but as the trip goes on, the two find a bond that was missing most of their lives. Joyce, whose husband had died and who has not dated for a long time, is pressured by his son to get back in the dating game–which she does as she gambles in Vegas and gets high in Texas, meeting a cowboy who wants to see her when he’s in the New York area. The usual mother-son hang-ups go on display. Mom spits on her hand and attempt to brush back her boy’s hair, which looks unruly. She crunches on food at night when Andrew is trying to sleep. But she provides enough encouragement to Andrew to allow him to keep his spirits up when his computerized pitch to corporate lead nowhere.
Streisand looks twenty, maybe thirty years younger than her age, so much so that in one believable scene, the motel manager winks to Andrew as though he’s in on the tryst that the couple appear about to consummate. Scenes like this allow Andrew to fulfill his role as a comic, giving hell to the manager and demanding separate rooms, which the budget-conscious mother vetoes. The ending is in line with the blandness of the action throughout, as mother and son realize that they’re both human beings, people who can relate like friends despite family status and an age difference of forty years. Rogen, a funny, funny man bereft of a Judd Apatow production, comes off OK but could have elicited more than two or three laughs from the audience with a more dynamic script.
Rated PG-13. 95 minutes © 2012 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – C-
Acting – C+
Technical – C
Overall – C