Meet the parent: Joyce Brewster thriftily fills spring water bottles with tap water, she's obsessed with the Gap and she incessantly calls her son, Andy, who lives 3,000 miles away in California — presumably to escape his mother's grasp.
A sweet, easygoing comedy with more natural charm than gut-busting laughs, The Guilt Trip surpasses its sitcom premise with clever casting: Barbra Streisand as overbearing chatterbox Joyce and Seth Rogen as her only child, an organic scientist determined to sell his newly invented cleaning product Scieoclean to a mega-store like Costco.
The Guilt Trip may not have you howling like Rogen's other famous flicks, but its restraint is its strength. It never gets too silly. So often, comedy writers feel the need to throw in a few wacky scenes, but this stays true and realistic and it's still entertaining.
Rogen trades his bong for a much more chaste, innocent, cuddly role. As proven in Take This Waltz, the 2011 movie in which he plays a husband whose marriage is tanking, and now in The Guilt Trip, Rogen isn't just a one-trick pot-smoking pony.
But the real star here is Streisand, who, at 70, looks better than all of the Kardashians. Babs, mom to one son in real life, plays Joyce naturally: She's overwhelming, yes, but lovingly so. When Joyce tells Andy she's afraid his sexual inability may have ended his last relationship, she does it because she doesn't want him to die alone, drawing parallels to her own celibate life.
The movie takes off when, wanting his mother to see life beyond Weight Watchers meetings and coupon clipping, Andy invites her on an eight-day road trip from New York to San Francisco. The antics begin when Andy wants to rent a very large SUV for their trip, but Joyce insists that — with a 15 percent off coupon she has — a tiny Chevy Aveo is the cheaper option. As always, Mom wins.
Dan Fogelman, the man behind Crazy, Stupid, Love and Disney films like Cars and Tangled, wrote the script in memory of his mother, Joyce Fogelman, and he truly understands the mother-son dynamic. The Guilt Trip is full of funny asides between the duo, some so slight you might miss them if you're munching your popcorn too loudly.
"I bought you some underwear at the Gap."
"Uh ... that's pretty gross."
Streisand and Rogen have undeniable chemistry. Every time she uncorks another annoying remark, Rogen responds by pursing his lips and wincing, to prevent himself from unloading on her. (Let's be honest: We all do the lip purse when we're with our mothers, because it's just not worth the fight.) But somewhere along the route, after things really start to tick Andy off, including the fact that no one wants to buy Scieoclean, he finally snaps in their motel room after a couple of shots of Jim Beam.
"You're going to dehydrate," Joyce nags, nags, nags.
"JUST. SHUT. UP."
"You little [bleep]," she says, like a wounded bird, and storms away. He immediately regrets it, which creates a turn in the plot that shows up at the end of the movie.
After Joyce eats a 4-pound steak just to get it for free and Andy scores an offer from HSN, they finally make it to San Francisco, where a surprise from Andy to Mom awaits. It's a nice payoff for their mother-son bond, and an especially moving moment for Joyce.
This movie was made for older sons and their even older mothers. With the smart casting of Rogen and Streisand, there's something here for everyone.
Sabrina Rocco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8862.