Monday, December 24, 2012

Like: The Guilt Trip

The Guilt Trip attempts absolutely nothing new.  It's a buddy movie, a road-trip movie, a movie about the relationship between a son and his overbearing mother.  It doesn't try to be edgy, it doesn't seek out drama where it doesn't need to, it never dares to make its characters anything less than likable.  If you were to evaluate The Guilt Trip on its raw contribution to the film arts, you'd be forced to cast it off with a sneer as essentially just not worth a mention.  Then again, if you were to evaluate The Guilt Trip based on its merit as a piece of art you probably don't belong talking about film in the first place.  The Guilt Trip is not art.  It's not Oscar bait.  It's a mildly amusing, charming enough, cute without being cloying movie you take your mother to when you both just need a break from everything life throws at you.  It's that type of movie, and making a successful, passable version of that type of movie must be a more difficult venture than it would appear, because - let's be real - for every dozen or so You Agains and Mad Moneys released, there's only one general audiences can swallow without throwing up.
The Guilt Trip is not vomit-inducing.  In fact, if you have a parent (mother or father) who could be cited as having typical Jewish Mother traits (a term I employ quite lovingly), chances are you'll find the film not only palatable, but accurate and oddly endearing.  Since my own mother is a fan of not only Barbra Streisand, but Seth Rogen as well (she loves his muppet laugh), The Guilt Trip was a non-negotiable outing from its inception, and one I have to admit I wound up smiling through without incident. Rogen stars as Andrew, a vaguely melancholy young organic chemist who is struggling to get his invented cleaning product stocked on the shelves of your local big-box store.  He's embarking on a driving tour of America, traveling to corporate headquarters near and far to pitch his organic cleaner to anyone willing to buy it.  An early stop finds him visiting his widowed mother Joyce (Streisand), and as a pang of pity mixes with stroke of good will, Andy decides to ask Joyce if she'd like to take the trip with him, though he knows full well how overwhelming she can be.  From New Jersey to San Francisco: hijinks ensue.  
The Guilt Trip could easily tip the scales towards "too much."  It could easily become a one-wrong-move-after-the-next comedy along the lines of Due Date in which the script seems to subscribe to Murphy's Law.  Thankfully, it doesn't.  Considering the character archetypes and the dynamic in play, the film exercises a tremendous amount of restraint.  While Joyce may be occasionally irritating and Andy stubborn to a fault, we are shown the perspective of each and turned towards a middle ground as they are.  There's a gentleness to the turn here, a sweetness that's pleasant instead of saccharine, and I appreciated that I didn't have to roll my eyes during The Guilt Trip.  Rogen and Streisand are an odd mix, and while both are bending their individual styles to meet the other, that compromise in itself yields surprising, relatively unexpected results in an otherwise predictable movie.

1 comment:

  1. Just because of this "The Guilt Trip is not vomit-inducing" I will watch it now. :D


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