Film & TV

Seth Rogen, Barbra Streisand Shine in The Guilt Trip

In Anne Fletcher's buddy comedy The Guilt Trip, Seth Rogen is Andy Brewster, an organic chemist frustrated in his entrepreneurial efforts at selling the natural cleaning product he has invented. About to embark on a multicity sales jaunt, he invites his mom (Barbra Streisand) along, ostensibly to spend time with her, but with the hidden agenda of hooking her up with an old boyfriend at journey's end. Pairing Rogen and Streisand turns out to be inspired. The wisp of a plot serves as a platform for some strong comic dynamics, the only semi-important thing the film has to offer. For an internationally famous doyenne who lives at a magnificent and heightened level of existence involving ambient harp glissandos and lilac fragrance, Streisand offers a spot-on portrayal of a retired, middle-class Gap aficionado. Andy's multiple agendas and internal resistance to the fact that he kind of wants his mom's help challenges his affable shlubbiness. Their exchanges have the ructious affection of long acquaintance, and the tight focus on the characters yields a narrative gentleness that's only surprising in a landscape of gross-out comedies, some of which Rogen has written himself. The Guilt Trip tees up scenes involving an eating contest, a strip club, and a casino, which in an overdetermined, situational film would have resulted in projectile vomiting, an embarrassing lap dance, and hitting the big jackpot. At each turn, Dan Fogelman's script instead veers back to the filial relationship and the complications therein.

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Chris Packham is a regular film contributor at Voice Media Group and its film partner, the Village Voice. VMG publications include LA Weekly, Denver Westword, Phoenix New Times, Miami New Times, Broward-Palm Beach New Times, Houston Press and Dallas Observer.