Barbra Streisand hasn’t taken a lead role in a movie since The Mirror Has Two Faces in 1996, so there was a fair amount of anticipation for The Guilt Trip. Unfortunately though, she should probably have spent a bit more time picking through scripts, as this certainly isn’t a triumphant return.
Seth Rogen plays Andy Brewster, an inventor who’s come up with a revolutionary cleaning product. He’s on a trip around the country trying to sell it to retailers, but nobody seems that interested, largely because his pitch is dreadful. He stops off to see his mom, Joyce (Streisand), and after she tells him a story about her first love, he decides to invite her along on the trip with the idea of secretly reuniting her with that old boyfriend.
However as with many mothers and sons they have issues. She tends to be bossy and wants to butt into her son’s life, while he stubbornly refuses to listen to anything she says and assumes she’s trying to control rather than help him.
They set off across the US and, as is the way with Hollywood movies, things progressively begin to get worse. Inevitably though, both mother and son end up learning a few things and come to a new understanding about one another.
It’s a fairly generic plot that hangs on the two lead actors. However that’s where the problem lies. In the special features they talk a lot about the chemistry between Rogen and Streisand, their ability to improvise and verbally spar with one another. That’s very true as they seem to have an innate understanding of each other and are able to conduct incredibly fast conversations where one’s almost talking over the top of one another.
However the film seems so in awe of them that it never steps back and sees what it’s doing to the overall movie. Very quickly both Rogen and Streisand begin to grate, as their repartee fast turns into tedious bickering, with both characters coming across as annoying and at times rather unpleasant. Individually the scenes would be fine, but they soon build into something rather irritating. It’s partly to do with the fact both mother and son are supposed to be stubborn, but it’s frustrating to watch.
Director Anne Fletcher has had previous success with the likes of 27 Dresses and The Proposal, but here she can’t quite wrangle her actors to ensure they’re servicing the overall story rather than just having fun with an individual scene. It gets to the point where it stops making much sense, but by that point you probably won’t care anyway as you won’t like either Rogen or Streisand’s characters.
Overall Verdict: Despite the talents of both Rogen and Streisand, they seem to have been given too much free reign, with nobody properly controlling the arc of the characters’ journeys. As a result, it’s two rather annoying people who are their own worst enemies, and it’s difficult to care about either of them.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac