December 21, 2012



THE GUILT TRIP:  Watch It At Home – Maybe If the Ride Were Bumpier, It Would Be More Interesting

The odd thing about THE GUILT TRIP is that it doesn’t especially cater either to fans of Barbra Streisand (who would probably prefer a more over-the-top, diva-like experience, not to mention some singing) or those of Seth Rogen (who’d appreciate an R rating and more smart-assed comedy).  Instead, Guilt Trip is a very mild, unassuming comedy drama that’s inoffensive enough to be the picture you see with grandma this holiday season, but not notable for much else.

The script is by Dan Fogelman, and after this and TV’s The Neighbors, it may be time to consider the possibility that the beautifully sustained mixture of tones in Crazy, Stupid Love was something of a fluke, and Fogelman isn’t the promising voice he appeared to be.  Of course, it’s fair to give some of the blame to director Anne Fletcher, whose work on the hackneyed 27 Dresses and The Proposal is a lot closer to the feel of Guilt Trip.

The set-up is basic but not without possibilities.  Son Andrew Brewster (Rogen)–although the two stars are among the Jewiest of current major performers, the movie has been scrubbed clean of any trace of Hebraic background–doesn’t have much of a relationship with mother Joyce (Streisand), and he’s sufficiently guilty about this that when he has to travel from New Jersey to San Francisco to peddle his new invention, a cleaning fluid so natural that one can drink it without harm, and he discovers that his mom’s first love may still live there, he offers to make the journey a joint road trip.  She’s delighted to have so much quality time with her son, and agrees.

The travel itself, is should be said, looks as it if was staged for a 1960s television series.  Reportedly because Striesand would only commit to making the movie if it were shot entirely near her Malibu compound, Rogen and his screen mother sit in a fake car while rear-projections show the scenery behind them, and when they get out of the car, they’re usually in a badly lit soundstage set.  (The very unimpressive photography is by Oliver Stapleton, who’s done fine work elsewhere, as in Robert Altman’s Kansas City, but doesn’t rise to the challenges here.)

What works surprisingly well in The Guilt Trip is the rapport between Streisand and Rogen.  Although they come from very different schools (and eras) of comedy, their timing is complimentary, and much of the picture passes pleasantly enough, with small incidents like Joyce tackling a giant steak that, if eaten quickly enough, will be free, and Andrew’ss own encounter with an ex-girlfriend.  Inevitably, the mother and son start out bickering (not very seriously), and end up bonding, with almost nothing in the way of surprises en route.

The Guilt Trip is moderately entertaining–the correct Jewish-American phrase, said with a shrug, is “Eh, it could’ve been worse”–and it’s certainly better than the upcoming Parental Guidance, which aims at the same multi-generational holiday audience.  It just seems like such a waste, for Streisand’s first starring role since 1996, and in a structure that really could have allowed for anything to happen, for the resulting film to be so bland.  The movie is ready for a rest home, even though its star is far from done.


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About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."