Starring: Seth Rogen, Barbra Streisand, Dale Dickey
Directed by: Anne Fletcher (“The Proposal”)
Written by: Dan Fogelman (“Crazy, Stupid Love”)
About halfway through “The Guilt Trip,” Andy Brewster (Seth Rogen) looks on as his widowed mother Joyce (Barbra Streisand) eats a 4-pound steak at a Texas restaurant during a layover on their cross-country road trip. Filled to the brim with red meat, I would have bet $100 that Joyce’s entire meal would have been violently vomited out all over the interior of the vehicle as soon as she buckled herself in. Never mind that the legendary Streisand would have been the one puking; it was the presence of Rogen, known for his roles in raunchy comedies, that had me waiting for something gross to happen. I mean, his frustratingly over-bearing mother ate a steak the size of a small dog and was cramming herself into a comically-undersized car. That’s a setup for a spew if I’ve ever seen one, right? Weirdly…no.
Anyway, anyone with a mother will find a frustration to relate to in “The Guilt Trip.” Rogen’s Andy lives far from his mom in Los Angeles. Andy is a former biochemist turned inventor struggling to pitch his all-natural cleaning product to disinterested retailers. Even from 3,000 miles away in New York, Joyce dotes on Andy, leaving dozens of voice mails about everything from the underwear she bought him at The Gap to theories she developed with her friends about his failed love life. When Andy visits his mother on the eve of a big sales trip, Joyce confides in him that he’s named after a long-lost love. Deciding that his mother, who hasn’t dated since her husband died more than 20 years ago, deserves to be happy, Andy concocts a plan. After secretly tracking down his namesake, Andy invites Joyce along on his road trip, intent on surprising her in San Francisco at the doorstep of the man she once loved.
One would be forgiven for expecting this to be a typical Seth Rogen comedy. After all, there aren’t many live-action movies featuring the actor that you’d be comfortable watching with your mother in the same room. “The Guilt Trip” changes that, though, with an amusing (if not laugh-out-loud funny) screenplay from Disney and Pixar vet Dan Fogelman and a fun performance from Streisand, who is game all the way through. This time around, it’s the younger viewers who might be experiencing discomfort as Streisand’s character hits a little too close to home. While Joyce often veers dangerously close to stereotypical “annoying Jewish mother” territory, she winds up tossing out just enough recognizable nuggets of nagging Rogen’s way to spark twinges of, “Ugh, my mom says the exact same thing!” recognition in every member of the audience.
Yeah, sorry Mom. Even me.