The Guilt Trip review

Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand go for a long, long drive together. So: does The Guilt Trip spark?

There’s a sporting chance that there’s a generous of cinemagoers who don’t quite appreciate why Barbra Streisand is famous. The once seemingly every-busy musician stroke actress stroke film director has only really been seen on a cinema screen of late in the woeful Fockers sequels, and outside of an infamous fuss over pictures of her house, she’s been off many people’s radar.

Conversely, Seth Rogen has shown real ambition in growing his career, taking a mix of bold risks and big projects. His leading performance in Observe And Report was a risky one, all but forgotten because the film itself didn’t work. Furthermore, in the past five years, five films have been released that Rogen has co-written, and this summer, we get his directorial debut with This In The End. This is not a man to stand still.

Thus, if you put Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand at a table together, gave them a couple of drinks, and just let them talk, then chances are it’d be quite an interesting discussion. Both have a breadth of credits and talents outside of acting, and both have shown an ability to get films made, when others may not have been successful.

Sadly, and you’re right to suspect this is coming, put the pair of them in a car together for the bulk of a movie, and it never gels in the way it should. They simply never spark in the way both are capable of, and The Guilt Trip becomes, for a good stretch, a chore of a movie.

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The basic setup sees Rogen as the inventor of a new cleaning product, which he’s planning a Stateside road trip to sell. For reasons a little bit forced – although that in itself isn’t a problem – Rogen decides to take his penny-pinching-yet-environmentally-friendly mother along. Yet as good an actress as Streisand is when she’s on form, a penny-pinching mother is one role she’s never going to sell. And she doesn’t, bluntly.

The whole film though seems to be put together around the theory that if you put Rogen and Streisand in a film together, people will roll up. And, to be fair, some people did roll up: product placement people. At times, the film is liking a rolling advertisement channel, for store after store, web search service, brand of laptop, restaurant and M&Ms. Lots of M&Ms in fact. More than anyone, they got their money’s worth, but it all gets so obvious and in the way. It would have felt just a little more honest to put ad breaks in between the main feature. It’s one of a list of frustrations with The Guilt Trip, that director Anne Fletcher never overcomes.

The film’s no write-off though. It adheres very strictly to a three act structure, so much so that you can almost see the page breaks on screen, but as it heads towards its conclusion, it delivers its best scene. Streisand finally goes out of her comfort zone a little as she and Rogen hit a Texas steakhouse, and while guffaws are still absent, the film does find a bit of mirth. It also finds some heart near the end, as for a couple of minutes, the relationship between Rogen and Streisand works.

But it’s not enough. And while the slight concept is part of the problem, there’s still mileage to be had in a slightly contrived road movie. The problem is that The Guilt Trip, much like the Google Map we see at the start, is so clearly mapped out, that the only way it was ever going to fully deliver was if its two stars did. They don’t, and it doesn’t.

With thanks to Cineworld Birmingham.

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2 out of 5