I was skeptical going into The Guilt Trip, a road trip comedy featuring Seth Rogen as Andy, and Barbara Streisand, as his mother Joyce. Andy is an organic chemist who’s invented a new natural cleaning product and is peddling it to big retailers across the country. Joyce apparently goes to the Gap and calls her son for a living. Andy asks Joyce to join him on his sales trip as a pretext to reunite her with a long lost love.
This movie nails the stereotype of the New Jersey Jewish mother: falsely optimistic and slightly detached from reality, confused by the internet, always hungry, and never quiet. But it does so in a loving, modern way. Streisand plays a person, not a cartoon character invented by Hollywood screenwriters of the last decade.
Joyce, as the typical Jewish mom, has traits that could also be recognized as the Italian, Black, Greek, or Puerto Rican mom — really any overprotective, heavily involved, family oriented culture. Joyce’s traits are less of an ethnic symbol, and more of a counter to the other entertainment stereotype, the WASP mom — emotionally withholding, pilled up, and avoidant.
The true pleasure of the film comes from Rogen and Streisand riffing off each other. An outtakes reel of their ad-libbed banter easily got the most sustained laughs. These cross-generational comedians can talk to each other on the multiple levels parents and children often communicate in — polite, yet condescending and sarcastic for children; clued in but playing dumb for parents.
For anyone home for Christmas who wants to kill their mom and then hug her, who doesn’t know if they’re a child or a peer, or just needs a movie without sex scenes to watch with their parents, this is your perfect pick for a sweet, lighthearted time together. In the end, writer Dan Fogelman dedicates the picture to his mother, Joyce.