The Guilt Trip (2013)

08 March 2013

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The Guilt Trip. As inventor Andy Brewster is about to embark on the road trip of a lifetime, a quick stop at his mom's house turns into an unexpected cross-country voyage with her along for the ride.

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"Funny in parts, touching in others, this may not be anything particularly new or exciting, but it remains an easygoing cinematic experience..."

The road trip movie formula is tried and tested as far as Hollywood is concerned, and although the sub-genre has produced some of the finest movies ever made, the concept is becoming somewhat repetitive. In a similar mould to Planes, Trains and Automobiles – or more recently Due Date – The Guilt Trip follows the story of two contrasting characters – one 'annoying', one 'not so annoying' travelling together across America. However where Anne Fletcher's title does stand out from the crowd, is that our protagonists are a mother and her son.

Andy Brewster (Seth Rogen) is an inventor of a new cleaning product, and embarks on a journey across America to try and sell his conception to various retail outlets. En route he stops off to visit his mother Joyce (Barbra Streisand), in what he hopes will be a flying visit. However, when the lonely widow recounts a story of her first love to Andy, and how he slipped away, through gritted teeth Andy decides to add one final visit to his trip, as he tracks down her former lover in the vein hope he can reunite the pair once and for all. Though as a punishment, he will have to put up with his voluble, nagging mother for a prolonged period of time...

First and foremost, The Guilt Trip is lacking in humour, as a film that offers few laughs to the viewer – something of an issue when the film is billed as a riotous comedy. Not enough truly happens, as the pair seem to be going on a road trip that constitutes mostly of driving, talking and sleeping, with a distinct lack of action or drama. At one point they visit one of Andy's ex-girlfriends, and although expecting fireworks instead we get a measly sparkler in the form of a two minute sequence of little consequence.

Having said that, such an approach does have its positives. Firstly, it allows more focus to lie solely on the relationship between Andy and Joyce, which, in effect, is what this film is truly about. Also, often too many mishaps and calamities can blight a movie such as this one, as it becomes too contrived and reliant on melodrama, only to deviate away from the main point. Take The Sitter for example, another disaster-comedy that is far more dependent on the former, resulting in a terribly fatuous production.

Where The Guilt Trip comes into its element, however, is within the chemistry between Rogen and Streisand – perfectly believable as a mother and son. Their relationship is endearing and authentic, and as such maximises the emotional effect of the finale, which is rather poignant and touching, providing clarity to what came before. Initially this title did seem somewhat beneath Rogen, who has moved on to a higher standard of comedy, with impressive performances in both 50/50 and Take This Waltz, however, regardless of the fact The Guilt Trip is a rather generic offering, his inclusion certainly seems justified when the final credits roll.

Funny in parts, touching in others, The Guilt Trip may not be anything particularly new or exciting, but it remains an easygoing cinematic experience. There haven't been many mom-rom-coms before (a mom-com?), but on this evidence, its a sub-genre we could quite happily explore further.

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