The Guilt Trip - movie review

Here’s what you need to know about The Guilt Trip: this is not a Seth Rogen stoner comedy. This film is all about Barbra Streisand. 

I.e. This is a movie for your Mum.

Consider yourselves warned. For anyone going in expecting Pineapple Express or Knocked Up will be in for a rude shock, as Babs takes center stage in what is actually a largely delightful, if run-of-the-mill, comedy. And with expectations managed, it might just prove fun for the whole family.

The story is paper-thin: after tanking his pitch at Kmart, hapless scientist Andy Brewster (Rogen) is going on a cross-country road trip to spruik his organic cleaning detergent. Calling in on his long-widowed, entirely overbearing New Jersey mother, Joyce (Streisand), Andy makes the rash decision to bring her along for the ride. He regrets the invitation as soon as he extends it, but goes ahead with his mollycoddling sidekick, though he’s now driving 3000 miles in a shitty compact rather than the SUV he’d booked, and suffering through Jeffrey Eugenides Middlesex on tape (nb. actually a fantastic novel if you haven’t read it).

Cue various, conveniently-timed hijinks - as required by the road movie – as well as similarly telegraphed emotional turmoil, as Andy’s pitches continue to fail and Joyce’s meddling pushes him to breaking point. 

The question is: how’s the comedy?

Well, this is where expectations come back into play. Caustic, rude and crude The Guilt Trip most certainly is not. Hell, don’t even expect much wit. Rogen spends far too much time being the exasperated straight man to bring any real banter to the table, though when he does, you’ll certainly giggle. And while Streisand proves she can nag like an absolute champion, art threatens to imitate life where you start to tune her out. Fortunately, she’s just so darned watchable, so even if the yammering starts to wear thin, you never stop rooting for her.

Case in point: Joyce is given a preposterous set piece in a steak house, where she accepts a challenge to down a ginormous hunk of meat in under an hour. The scene is written and directed with all the alacrity of an infomercial, and yet somehow Streisand – through shear force of comedic will – salvages the scene. Some actors you’d pay to watch read the phonebook; turns out it’s worth paying to see Streisand eat a steak. 

Yes, director Anne Fletcher has one again saved the day with her casting. Her previous film, The Proposal (no, I’m not even going to mention the insufferable 27 Dresses), is far better than it deserves to be thanks to the crackling chemistry between Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. And although this is a step down from screenwriter Dan Fogelman’s recent success with Crazy, Stupid, Love, he too is held aloft by Streisand and Rogen’s naturally endearing qualities.

The biggest shame about this film is that they haven’t timed the release with Mother’s Day, because The Guilt Trip would make an amusing trip to the cinema with your Mum – where you could share a tub of popcorn…and a side of knowing eye-rolling.

Alice Tynan


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