A safe but satisfying movie, the Guilt Trip delivers more laughs than expected and a ton of heart without feeling too manipulative.
The Guilt Trip follows only child and environmental scientist Andrew (Seth Rogen) as he is about to embark on a sales trip to try to find a distributor for his environmentally safe spray cleaner when he learns that he was named after a love his mother (Barbara Streisand) had before she met his father. Andy does some detective work and finds the man is living in San Francisco and invites his mom along on his trip so he can try to get her back together with the man. Typical road trip shenanigans ensue and there are lots of laughs and lots of learning.
The Guilt Trip is a generally middle of the road comedy and, unless you have issues with your mom or, say, your mom is no longer living, there isn’t much to really challenge the audience. The story unfolds as one might expect with Andy trying to do his things and make his own decisions while his mom nags and frets and tells him what he should be doing instead. There is fighting and hurt feelings and understandings and all of the things that a movie like this has to do. The thing is that the quality here is not derived from its originality but rather by its quality.
The material presented here is solid with solid laughs that transcend the otherwise mundane nature of the story. I can’t really overstate the importance of this as it would be easy to write this movie off as a retread of a film but the writing is crisp and funny and the performances are real and genuine. I laughed way more during this movie than I expected to and while a lot of the credit goes to Rogen, Streisand steals the movie out from under him. The chemistry between the two is pretty awesome and provides a solid foundation upon which the film builds everything else. If the leads had been less compelling and interacted awkwardly then the movie would have been a failure. Not only is the chemistry good between them but, even when things get tense and the arguing starts, there is always an undercurrent of real emotion and affection. You really believe these characters care for one another and that drives pretty much all of their action throughout the movie.
As typical of a story as the Guilt Trip has, the script is still very smart and manages to sidestep a lot of the more cliched moments of the road trip movie. More than once I thought for sure it would make a move only to find it going in a different direction I didn’t expect. None of this is terribly hard hitting, mind, but it is refreshing to be surprised to any degree by a movie with as well worn a formula as this.
I’ve said that this isn’t a challenging movie a couple of times but I do have to make one caveat. I lost my mom a year and a half ago and as such some of the material here made me very sad and it was difficult to watch at times. There is one argument in particular in which Streisand’s character says things to Rogen that hit me pretty close to home as they were almost word for word things my mom had said to me. It is harder for me now to find humor in being annoyed with your mom because I no longer have one to be annoyed with and if I could hear her nag at me just one more time it would be worth the inherent frustration just to hear her voice. That being said, this is not the movie’s fault and is baggage that I bring in. I mention it here only because if you are in a similar situation you may react in a similar way and it is something to be aware of as it will color how you experience and enjoy the film.
Conclusion [7.5 out of 10]
The Guilt Trip is definitely an enjoyable film thanks to solid laughs and the chemistry between Rogen and Streisand. It does not do much to challenge the audience and it feels a bit light at the end of the day but it is worth checking out at a matinee or as a rental.