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FILM REVIEW: THE GUILT TRIP
By Michael Phillips
Tribune Newspapers Critic
Well, it's a masterpiece compared with "Little Fockers," the last movie featuring Barbra Streisand.
"The Guilt Trip" stars Streisand and Seth Rogen as kvetchy mother and nudnik son, in a rental car, causing each other no little tsuris, not to mention tsimmes, as they drive cross-country learning a few life lessons per Dan Fogelman's clearly mapped screenplay.
The plot points arrive like historical markers. And yet it's a lot better than "Little Fockers," in which Streisand played a tiny supporting role. It's also better than the earlier "Meet the Fockers." In "The Guilt Trip," at least she has a chance to take over a scene, and a movie.
In "The Guilt Trip," only her fifth screen acting job in 20 years, Streisand plays Joyce, the long-widowed mother of sad-sack entrepreneur Andy (Rogen, whose cheek was made for pinching). There's a man on the other side of the country, in San Francisco, whom Joyce loved once upon a time, before she met Andy's father. Out of guilt, and trace elements of affection, Andy asks Joyce to accompany him on a work trip. He's trying to sell an eco-friendly cleaning solution to various retailers; the secret mission, however, is to hook up Joyce with her former beau.
So it goes, directed with efficient proficiency by Anne Fletcher. The former choreographer directed "27 Dresses" and "The Proposal," neither of which was as easy to take as "The Guilt Trip," though both were less dire than "Little Fockers." For the record, "Little Fockers" really wasn't funny at all. At all. At. All.
Joyce drives Andy nuts by listening to the entirety of "Middlesex" on tape in the rental car. On a dare, she consumes the dreaded 4 1/2-pound steak at a Texas steakhouse, where she meets an eligible and interested bachelor (Brett Cullen). Joyce has some ideas regarding how to spice up nervous Andy's sales pitches. Andy deflects; Joyce wheedles and needles.
Some movies exist to be elevated by the performers they're showcasing. This is one of them. The extended dialogue scenes Streisand shares with Rogen stay just this side of aggravating overstatement, even when the characters themselves are meant to be aggravating each other. Did you happen to see the road trip comedy "Due Date," with Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis? That film was a headache -- sour and formulaic. "The Guilt Trip," somewhat against the odds, is not a headache. It's formulaic but sweet, in its way. My head felt fine coming out of it. And it still does, thanks for asking.
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for language and some risque material).
Running time: 1:35.
Cast: Seth Rogen (Andy); Barbra Streisand (Joyce); Adam Scott (Andrew).
Credits: Directed by Anne Fletcher; written by Dan Fogelman; produced by Evan Goldberg, John Goldwyn and Lorne Michaels. A Paramount Pictures release.
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