Written by: Dan Fogelman
Starring: Barbra Streisand, Seth Rogen, Brett Cullen, Adam Scott, Ari Graynor, Casey Wilson
Every parent-child relationship has its own quirks as past history, genetics, and life circumstances forge the connection they have. Diving into these dynamics typically makes for entertaining fare because something new can always arise from looking at a different pairing. In its attempts to actually try and be funny, however, The Guilt Trip deeply suffers from horribly bland jokes and a pairing of actors who could not elevate the shoddy material they received.
In hopes to sell his organic cleaning product, Andy (Seth Rogen) decides to head to Las Vegas after rejections from other retailers. Feeling for his lonely mother, Joyce (Barbra Streisand), he offers her the opportunity to go with her in hopes to reconnect her with a previous flame she had in her youth.
Simple in its conception but incompetently put together, The Guilt Trip had the makings of at-best being a decent background film you could have on while doing other things. However, the lacking level of quality present in this feature would make it far too painful even for that type of tepid recommendation. On the face of it, this film features a mother and son who have not been as close as they could be over the years. This sense of disconnection remains apparent in their initial conversations and the olive branch extended by Andy sets off the plot and while this goes by fairly conventional beats, it never really hits an emotional breakthrough, not from a lack of trying.
Much of the comedy found in this film comes from Joyce embarrassing Andy at every turn in the way she naively misunderstands specific social cues. The stereotypical things an older person would experience that would enrage a child. However, pretty much none of it works in even producing a chuckle because everything could be seen from a mile away. These jokes bring nothing inventive to the table as everything came telegraphed with its lack of unoriginality. Instead of bringing anything new, this feature simply relied on Joyce consistently embarrassing her son for the majority of the story, and in turn, the audience. With no real comedic beats, a basic story, what was left to hang onto for any sort of entertainment? I suppose the characters themselves.
Wishful thinking at its highest as this feature has two protagonists that only succeed in annoying me at every turn. Their issues felt extremely superficial throughout and the bickering they go through within the narrative made me want to jump out of the car to get away from it all. Rogen and Streisand receive absolutely no help from the script and the direction of trying to elevate these characters beyond empty soulless figures desperately trying to suck out laughs from the audience, which only made it worse when nothing in the feature could even be considered remotely funny. Bottom of the barrel stuff here.
Look, I don’t want to be harsh on this movie seeing as its intention comes with plenty of heart. The relationship between a child and their parent is a sacred one, especially when involving the mother. Going through 9-month pregnancies and late nights, staying connected with one’s mother is something I treasure and this film had the opportunity to demonstrate something insightful about this reconnection happening with Joyce and Andy. However, it never really comes together in a meaningful way. With none of the comedy working in the slightest, I continued to hold out hope something meaningful would occur towards the climax of the film between the two but it never really arrives. At least I hope not seeing as whatever attempted to be this big emotional moment landed like a wet fart.
It’s difficult to get too hung up on this film, as it’s merely just a waste of talent. Stands as yet another failure from Anne Fletcher as a director who seemingly cannot land any of her films in the category of successful. Whether it be the projects she chooses or her lack of deft in directing comedies, none of her films really work in their attempts to be even entertaining before even being considered good. Just an overall waste for everyone involved and one no one has talked about since its release with good reason.