The Arty Semite

One Bad 'Guilt Trip'

By Curt Schleier

  • Print
  • Share Share
Paramount Pictures

It’s difficult to decide who to hold responsible for the new Barbra Streisand/Seth Rogan film, “The Guilt Trip.” There is plenty of guilt to go around.

Andy Brewster (Rogan) is a chemist who developed a natural cleaning product from renewable resources. He’s sunk his last pennies into the project and has been making the rounds of large retailers hoping to sell it.

He’s about to go on one last cross country sales trip before throwing in the towel. After flying to New Jersey, Andy is staying at his mother’s home and plans to leave from there on the eight-day journey. At the last minute, he invites his widowed mom, Joyce (Streisand), to accompany him.

And there you have the template for what no doubt was intended to be a heart-warming voyage of discovery, where mother and son find common bond and understanding. But “The Guilt Trip” breaks the mold — and not in a good way.

Both Brewsters are caricatures rather than full blown characters. As a result, what the press notes describe as “mashugana situations” are cringe-inducing affairs. What else would you call an early scene where Joyce tells her son that his father was a rebound? Her true love was a man named Andrew Margolis, who wasn’t interested in getting married. So when Andy’s dad proposed, she accepted — and named her only son after her former suitor.

The entire plot revolves around that unlikely revelation. Andy locates the man in California, discovers he’s still single and asks his mom to accompany him, though keeping secret his plan to reunite the pair.

Along the way the two have road trip misadventures — the “mashugana situations” that are presumably intended to be funny. For example, the first night when they check into a motel the desk clerk assumes they are a couple. Streisand looks good for a woman her age —70 — but not that good.

Don’t let the fact that Joyce’s last name is Brewster or that she named her son to honor a living person fool you. She is definitely Jewish. This is, in part, why I so much wanted to like ” The Guilt Trip.” I come from that environment and rarely see it portrayed with the affection and humor hinted at in the trailer.

But Joyce isn’t just a stereotypically annoying, overbearing, suffocating coupon-loving Jewish mom. She’s an annoying, overbearing, suffocating coupon-loving Jewish mom totally oblivious to her actions which defy logic and common sense. Sitting in a business office, not even my mother would spit on her hand and fix a cowlick on my hair. And that’s saying something.

Andy is no better. It’s possible that a person with a masters degree in organic chemistry smart enough to develop an FDA-approved cleaning product is ignorant about marketing. (Does the FDA really approve cleaning products?) It’s possible that he would pay to manufacture 10,000 bottles without a customer in sight, and that he would give the same pitch over and over again, knowing no one laughs at his jokes and that buyers’ eyes glaze over when he begins. But is it really possible that he would give pitch after pitch without once demonstrating how his product cleans?

Very few things these caricatures do are organic to the story, and destroy what little momentum the film has. So who’s to blame?

The most obvious target is screenwriter Dan Fogelman, but that’s a bit too easy. Fogelman based the film on a cross-country trip he took with his own mom, who coincidentally was named Joyce. But I am willing to bet that the screenplay he wrote is not the one that you see on the screen.

He’s too smart. His first screenplay was “Cars,” a great Pixar film where animated autos demonstrated more logic than Streisand/Rogan. Frankly, even Fogelman’s less successful efforts (“Crazy,” “Stupid Love”) tend not to be as crazy or stupid as this one.

According to the press notes, the process of getting Streisand to sign on “evolved slowly over numerous meetings and re-workings of the script.” These kinds of meetings are not unusual, but Streisand has a reputation of being unusually demanding, and I’m certain has to shoulder a share of the responsibility.

Then there is director Anne Fletcher, whose story-telling skills seem wanting. The editing is disjointed and there are scenes in the film that add nothing and seem like filler. Another sign: often a comedy’s best and funniest scenes are in the trailer. Here the funniest scenes from the trailer aren’t in the film.

There is the requisite happy ending. Andy takes mom’s advice and finally makes a sale. Joyce finds closure from Andrew and love in the form of a cowboy who likes the way she eats. Really.

Watch the trailer for ‘The Guilt Trip’:


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Seth Rogan, Film, Dan Fogelman, Dan Fletcher, Curt Schleier, Barbra Streisand, Anne Fletcher, The Guilt Trip

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.