out of Five
Running time: 95
Enjoyable mother-son road movie that swerves the potential potholes of broad or outrageous comedy in favour of an engaging, emotionally convincing and ultimately moving portrait of the central relationship, heightened by a strong script and superb performances from Streisand and Rogen.
What's it all about?
Directed by Anne Fletcher and written by Dan Fogelman, The Guilt Trip stars Seth Rogen as Andy Brewster, a scientist who's driving across the country, pitching his entirely organic cleaning product to various companies. When his doting Jewish mother Joyce (Barbra Streisand) tells him about an old flame, he impulsively invites her to join him on his road trip, secretly hoping that reuniting her with her apparently still alive and unmarried ex-boyfriend might get her off his back with regard to his own non-existent love life.
Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen are genuinely convincing as mother and son, creating an engaging and believable bond that is surprisingly moving and errs on the side of realism rather than exaggerating their traits for dubious comic effect. As a result, both actors deliver interesting, layered performances, with Rogen softening the edges of his usual schtick and Streisand removing all trace of her star persona from her turn as Joyce. There are also a handful of excellent single-scene cameos from the likes of Yvonne Strahovski (perfectly cast as Andy's ex-girlfriend), Nora Dunn (as a TV host), Brett Cullen (as a businessman who takes a shine to Joyce), Adam Scott and Ari Graynor.
Fogelman's warm-hearted script is clearly drawn from personal experience (an end-credit dedication reads ‘In memory of Joyce Fogelman’), which goes some way to explaining the film's rewarding focus on the central relationship rather than getting drawn into ridiculous situations or slapstick. That said, there are still a number of gently enjoyable comic set-pieces, such as Joyce entering a Man vs Food-style steak-eating challenge (Babs vs Food) or the pair having to make a pit-stop at a strip club.
Naturally, the marketing for the film plays up the comedic elements, but the film is actually much more refreshing for not going down the expected comedy route (see the godawful Due Date for just how wrong exaggerated ‘comedy’ road movies can go). In fact, the most annoying thing about The Guilt Trip is the constant product placement, right down to incorporating a well known peanut and chocolate snack into one of the film's key speeches.
The Guilt Trip is an engaging, enjoyable and ultimately moving mother/son road movie with a likeable script and a pair of terrific performances from Streisand and Rogen.
The Guilt Trip (12A)