Andy Brewster is about to embark on the road trip of a lifetime, and who better to accompany him than his overbearing mother Joyce. After deciding to start his adventure with a quick visit at mom's, Andy is guilted into bringing her along for the ride. Across 3,000 miles of ever-changing landscape, he is constantly aggravated by her antics, but over time he comes to realize that their lives have more in common than he originally thought. His mother's advice might end up being exactly what he needs.
Road trips are an exciting adventure everyone, young and old, relishes. Then there is the dreaded road trip that includes your parents, one, or both. Spending hours in a car with them, regardless of how much love you them, can be torturous. For Seth Rogen's character Andrew, a road trip with his overbearing, smothering, and opinionated mother Joyce, played by none other than Barbra Streisand, is going to be the longest eight days of his life in The Guilt Trip. These eight days also just happen to be the most important in his career as he is traveling the country to pitch his all natural cleaning product, Scieoclean, to some of the largest retail companies; namely Kmart, Costco, Ace Hardware, and Orchard Supply, plus the Home Shopping Network in Las Vegas. Andrew needs to focus, keep calm, and do well--having his mother around is not helping, or is it?
The Guilt Trip is directed by the woman behind the hugely successful Sandra Bullock and Ryan Renolds starring The Proposal, Anne Fletcher, and written by Tangled screenwriter Dan Fogelman, based on his own experiences with his mother. The trueness of the story shines through incredibly, as each and every scene between Rogen's Andrew and Streisand's Joyce is relatable, to put it mildly. Mother's have a way of acting similarly, regardless of how different they may be, and Fogelman captures the mother-child relationship perfectly. The Guilt Trip goes so far as to make you feel like you're on a road trip with your own mother, and the empathy you have for Andrew impossible to deny. But you also connect with Joyce on various levels; her having been a single mother after his father passed away more than twenty years ago and latching onto her son to replace the loss she had in her life. In an effort to make Joyce more relatable to women she has a secret, that is revealed prior to Andrew's "guilt" that causes him to invite her along on his trip. The road trip becomes more than a way for Andrew to try and succeed at his new business venture, it is also a romantic journey to find Joyce's first love--even if she doesn't know this is Andrew's ultimate plan. The heart of the story is in Andrew and Joyce connecting as mother and son. The bond they develop, in between temper tantrums and plenty of comedic interludes, makes The Guilt Trip a perfectly casted comedy, with enough chemistry between Streisand and Rogen that you cannot help but indulge in their playing at mother and son.
A complaint you could make about The Guilt Trip is a lack of character arc for Joyce. She is up until the final moments of the film the same person, having undergone not a change for better or worse. This is how it should be, though, because The Guilt Trip is not Joyce's story, it's Andrews. He is the one that needs to make changes in his life, accept his past and move on, and also accept that his mother is who she is and that is not going to change. It is a moral all of us could take a cue from. As much as we would like our parent's to change, to have a greater understanding of who we are, or become more tolerant of things as they are or how they are in the world today the likelihood of this happening is slim to none. People are who they are, and while you can adapt you cannot expect someone to change dramatically, especially at an older age. Joyce does not need to have a strong arc in The Guilt Trip as she is merely an obstacle for Andrew to overcome and make peace with in a variety of ways. She helps him, in her own way, but aside from taking a few new chances on life and letting her hair down so to speak Joyce is who she was when they departed from New York. These moments only help Andrew to appreciate who his mother is as a person, aside from being his Mom. The Guilt Trip works better this way, as it is not bogged down with two people trying to find their way at different points in their life. You get to focus on Andrew, and the relationship he has with mother, and not a complicated sequence of events for two characters that would only prolong the movie and take away from the easy enjoyment it provides.
It all comes down to a kleenex in The Guilt Trip when considering the level of humor in the movie. Every mother has one, tucked away in a pocket of her purse or smushed at the bottom. It's been there forever, because there is always one side left that's clean. If you know of this kleenex, have experienced it being pulled out when your nose is running, and swiftly declined by wriggling your nose and saying "gross, Mom," then you will undoubtedly laugh at many a scene in The Guilt Trip. Adding to the quirky things mother's do, there is also the uncomfortable book on tape that features erotica and speaks of sex, two things children and parents should never experience together. Or the inevitable tantrum a grown man (or women) has, reverting back to the 6-year-old child they once were, when their mother just won't stop talking, nagging, or providing helpful suggestions on how to go about your life. It even manages to take a cue from the classic comedy The Great Outdoors by including a steak eating contest, performed by mommy Streisand's Joyce, to much a chuckle.
It is within reason to read the above and think, "why would I want to experience this in a movie, I get it all the time in reality?" That is just it, The Guilt Trip knows just what to focus on, what details to include, and just how to create a scenario that is so true to life you have to laugh because you've been there before, and will again. The movie may not be a laugh a minute type of comedy, but it has enough to make it memorable. Including an unforgettable scene that plays during the credits that cannot be missed. Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand are an odd pairing, and their personalities strikingly different. This works to the advantage of The Guilt Trip because all of the differences in the world cannot change the fact that a mother and her child undoubtedly share more than they would like to believe. Spending eight days with your mother on a road trip may sound like torture, but when put in the hands of screenwriter Dan Fogelman it makes for an often times hilarious adventure. I dare say, The Guilt Trip is the perfect movie to take your mother to, if only so you can finally show her just what she does to you all the time--not that its going to make any difference, and you love her just the same--kleenex and all.
December 19, 2012