The Guilt Trip Movie Review
Virtually impossible to market, this film isn't nearly as wacky and rude as its cast and crew suggest. Despite the presence of Rogen (Pineapple Express) and Streisand (Meet the Fockers), plus writer Fogelman (Crazy Stupid Love), director Fletcher (The Proposal) and producer Goldberg (Superbad), this is actually a warm, gentle comedy about the relationship between a mother and son. Sure, there are moments of inspired silliness, but you're more likely to feel a lump in your throat than a stitch in your side.
Rogen plays the science nerd Andrew, who has just invented an organic cleaning product and is taking a cross-country trip to find a buyer. In a moment of weakness, he invites his meddling mother Joyce (Streisand) to join him on the road from New Jersey to San Francisco. She doesn't know that he has discovered that her old flame now lives in California, and he hopes that sparking her love life might get her off his back. But their time together takes some unexpected turns, which change their relationship forever.
Even in the film's goofier segments, such as a ridiculous beef-eating contest Joyce enters in Texas, Fletcher and Fogelman keep the characters likeable and grounded. Streisand is especially impressive, delivering a layered performance that mixes broad one-liners with more internalised emotions. She's much more than just a pushy Jewish mother: Joyce is a middle-aged woman with needs of her own and real love for her son. Meanwhile, Rogen plays Andrew as a nice guy with social issues. So instead of rooting for Joyce and Andrew to sort out their relationship, or even for Andrew to sell his invention, we are more interested in whether Joyce will be able to reignite her personal life.
The central theme here is that we need to pay better attention to the people around us and keep our own impulses in check. This may not be hugely insightful, but the cast and crew maintain a light touch that never feels either cloying or silly. And in addition to the nicely complex turns by Rogen and Streisand, there are terrific one-scene players who liven things up along the way. The film may not be laugh-out-loud funny, and it might not be hugely demanding either for the audience or the actors, but we can see ourselves in the characters, and we might even be inspired to keep our inner child alive as we get older.