The Guilt Trip (Paramount Pictures, PG-13)

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film guilt-trip_75The Guilt Trip is a charming, true-to-life, mismatched buddy road trip movie filled with both comedy and pathos. 


film guilt-trip_500

Andy Brewster (Seth Rogen) has formulated the best cleaning product in the world. Scieoclean (the marriage between science and clean—get it? If so, you’re among the minority here) is an FDA-approved, green cleaning agent made from coconut oil, palm oil, and soy. He has put all his money into researching, formulating, and producing vast quantities of this product and now faces the task of selling it.

As The Guilt Trip begins, Andy is embarking on a five-stop tour of the United States where he will be pitching his product to major corporations, including Costco and HSN. Trouble is, his presentation is stilted, dry, highly scientific, and boring; it’s no wonder he gets cut off before he can complete the litany of reasons why his product is better than the competition.

The California-based Andy begins his trek on the East Coast, which entails a stop in New Jersey to visit to his long-widowed mother, Joyce (Barbra Streisand). While there, she reveals a lifelong secret to him (turns out her therapist—actually, she admits, her friend Anita—advised her to come clean to her son): She had a great love before she met his father. Feeling he is doing his non-dating mother a favor, Andy tracks the man down in California and spontaneously invites his mother along for the ride. This way, he can surprise her with the reunion at the end of the trip.

The movie features an absolutely stunning performance from Streisand. She plays Joyce with such deep-seated emotions, from enduring love for her son, to the often unwelcome attempts to better (or direct) his life, to heartbreak when her actions are rejected. Kvetching and smothering her son like any good, over-attentive mother should, Streisand imbues her character with truth and love. The audience feels every sentiment along with her, her face saying more than words ever could. Rogen, too, delivers a solid presentation. His Andy is wholly believable as a chemical scientist, made clear as he awkwardly attempts to sell his all-natural cleaning product at major corporations from coast to coast.

Of course, this being a holiday movie, we know the repressed emotions will lead to the inevitable fight, and that Joyce and Andy will ultimately achieve a deeper relationship in which they accept the other for who they really are. It’s also a given that Andy will eventually find success (the degree of which is another indicator of the reality-based nature of this movie); that it springs from the advice of his mother should be no surprise.

You could call The Guilt Trip a feel-good movie, and you would not be wrong. You could call it a family drama, and that’s accurate, as well. But what the film ultimately delivers is a portrait of perseverance and the purest type of love on earth: that of a mother to a child. Anyone with parents or children should find much to love here. | Laura Hamlett

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