CHICAGO – “Drinking Buddies” director Joe Swanberg’s latest release of the same star wattage is “Happy Christmas,” an even lower-fi story than the Olivia Wilde beer comedy, steered even more by the casting that it was able to assemble. However, with this movie Swanberg doesn’t so much worry about having a story that could be confused with a more mainstream romantic comedy if it were to have a bigger budget.
Film Review: ‘The Guilt Trip’ Never Reaches a Destination
CHICAGO – There has to be something wrong with a movie that by the end, the thought is ‘how did they get a parking spot in San Francisco?’ and ‘how much does that house cost?’ “The Guilt Trip,” with Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand, is a dispirited exercise in wasted potential.
The story has a savory angle – son wants a reunion for his widowed mother with a long lost love, so he takes her on a business road trip – but the script takes the duo to high concept locations (strip club, Las Vegas) and seen-it-before emotional confrontations with no motivations. There are some interesting moments, but these are quickly squashed by Seth Rogen-esque schtick (annoying) and overacting by Barbra Streisand. If a commitment had been made to really explore the emotional dynamics between a mother and son, or if it were a grittier independent style film with the same premise, it could have been a contender. Instead, it’s 95 minutes of “movie star characters” and their quirks.
Andrew Brewster (Seth Rogen) is an organic chemist who has just invented a new natural cleaning product. Sinking his life savings into the concept, he is to make a pitch to several retail and sales outlets. To do this and save money, he decides to start on the East Coast (he lives in Los Angeles) and drive cross country to the various companies. This gives him an opportunity to go to New Jersey and visit his widowed mother Joyce (Barbra Streisand), before embarking on the journey.
In a rare intimate moment, Joyce tells her son that she had a brief but intense affair as a younger woman, before she married Andrew’s father, and even named Andrew after the former lover. This piques the son’s curiosity, and he finds out through the internet that the ex-lover lives in San Francisco, and is unmarried. Under the ruse of the business trip, Andrew asks his mother Joyce to accompany him on the cross country drive, with the last stop now in San Francisco.
Photo credit: Paramount Pictures