The Guilt Trip – 2 out of 5
Ah, the road trip…a time where you’re stuck in a car with a loved one or friend (or a bitter rival, if you are incredibly unfortunate) with hopes of laughs and a grand adventure but, by the time you hit your final mile and reach your destination, you’re ready to murder each other in the most violent way imaginable thanks to the endless amounts of time you spend crammed into a tiny box on wheels having to smell each others farts, deal with the others shitty taste in music and need to sing along with it (I get it, you like Dave Matthews Band but can we listen to something else for awhile?). And it is because of this dynamic that the act of the road trip is an occasional theme in the world of movies.
|"If we listen to 'Gungam Style' on repeat, it'll make the trip feel shorter."|
The Guilt Trip is about a organic chemist; Andrew Brewster (Seth Rogen), who invents an all-natural, extremely safe cleaning product that he has invested all his money in and is about to go on a cross-country trip to try and sell it to the big box stores. Before leaving, he spends some time with his mother, Joyce, (Barbra Streisand) and, after learning about a lost love she still holds a candle for, decides he’s going to surprise her by ending the trip with a reunion of the two. So, mother and son embark on a journey across the U.S. and start to learn more about each other as they push each other’s buttons and shove each other to the breaking point (just like real life road trips—like I’ll never forget the time my best friend and I took a road trip to the Grand Canyon and he started to eat my Teddy Grahams and one thing lead to another so the fists started flying and, before you know it, I shoved him off the edge of the canyon and—wait, I should probably just end the story there.)
The film tries to be funny, it tries to be touching and it tries to be endearing but ultimately fails at each and every attempt. Overall, the entire movie just feels like it wasn’t trying hard enough and only putting in the most minimum of effort. Kinda surprising when you learn that Paramount was so completely assured that Barbra Streisand was going to win a Golden Globe for her performance that they actually purchased an ad congratulating her on the win…but then had to immediately pull it when it was realized she wasn’t even nominated. Oops.
|"How's the scenery taste?"|
I would say The Guilt Trip is designed for older viewers (and, at first glance, it seems to be the case) but when you factor in that “knowing your audience” was just another element that was only given a portion of consideration to during the production you become hard pressed to figure out who exactly this film was intended for. Obviously the story material is meant for an older audience and Babs (God dammit, did I just call her “Babs?”) was brought in to reflect that and, as if to expand the market, Seth Rogen was brought in to try and appeal to the younger crowd but the mixing of these two variables only works to repel the prospective audience. Granted, Streisand isn’t terrible in her role and is, at times, sweet and charming to watch as the overbearing mother but Rogen just looks lost in a movie that has no vulgar comedy backing up his usual typecast performance.
|Without dick, gay or pot jokes, Seth Rogen finds no joy in his job.|
While on paper it may have been possible for Rogen and Streisand to play the part of mother and son, the final product shows it wasn’t. Streisand is carrying the entire dynamic between the two. She really does come off like a mother who is just all too proud and all too in love with her son and desperately wants to be an active part of his life, however, Rogen just comes off as an asshole the entire film. While it is a part of his character to be embarrassed and annoyed by his mother, his condescending attitude towards her and constant string of sarcasm flung at her person makes his character the epitome of dickatude and ends up hurting the entire dynamic of the story.
|"Stop being such a bitch with the whole loving me thing, Mom!"|
The premise is simple: Son is embarrassed of his overbearing parent and, after some turbulent times in a confined space with her (like a car or a mishap that ends with them being locked in a restaurant walk-in cooler for an entire night) they start to understand each other better and come to a huge revelation and their relationship is all the better for it. Sadly, this film doesn’t do that because Rogen’s character is too busy being an unlikeable, pretentious ass the entire time. Even after the revelation occurs, he still comes off like a dickhead who just hides his contempt for his mother behind more sarcasm and a mask of friendliness. While it’s understandable why his character is suppose to be frustrated with his mom (children embarrassed by their parents is a common theme in both fiction and reality), Rogen’s bitter and outright angry performance ends up killing any potential for comedy this movie may have had (and there’s not a lot to begin with). It’s quite possible to play the part of the exasperated son dealing with an eccentric parent—in fact, it was done in another Streisand movie with Ben Stiller; Meet the Fockers.
Due to the fact that Rogen’s less-than-desirable attitude his character takes the entire film, pretty much all semblance of comedy is 100% eradicated as the scenes play out more like you are about to witness a man who is on the verge of giving his mother a horrible verbal abuse tirade just because she sneezed during the good part of a country song and you suddenly feel extremely uncomfortable because you think you are about to see a man beat the shit out of his own mother because she ate the last twizzler (Note: Just because a country song was used in that example doesn’t mean all people who listen to country music are wife beaters—just potential wife beaters). Even when the film is trying to be sweet and touching it comes off like a complete failure. While the movie does pull at the heartstrings it only does so moments before the credits come pushing their way in (possibly to try and stop a man from hitting his own mother).
|Adam Scott was wasted in this film. But I guess the check cleared.|
From beginning to end, the film just feels like it is not trying at all. While Streisand is decent in the film (and her performance is definitely the film’s only saving grace) her performance is nowhere near strong enough to give the film even a rental status. The jokes are weak and unfunny, the endearing tones of the story arrive too late and an extremely jerky performance from Rogen that never really ceases being douchey makes the film tiresome all around. At one point, the filmmakers behind The Guilt Trip should have just given up on the happy ending (like they gave up on much of the script) and just ended it with the mom and son hating each other; if they done that, at least the film would have seemed realistic and been a perfect representation of an actual road trip. Kinda like the road trip I took with an ex-girlfriend to the Florida everglades. On the way, we picked up a hitchhiker and he started to get a little lippy with what radio station we were playing so we knocked him out with a shovel and ditched the body among the gators—wait, I probably shouldn’t tell this story either.