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Full disclosure: on July 13, 74 I sat down at a table in Lloyd’s Coach House restaurant in Fort Smith, Arkansas and ate a 72 ounce Sirloin steak with a shrimp cocktail, salad and a roll completing it all in less than an hour. I still have the notarized check marked “No Charge”. An hour later I was on a radio show talking about Weight Watchers. Thirty eight and a half years later, in “The Guilt Trap”, Joyce (Barbra Streisand) sits down to the same challenge in another restaurant, only it is a 50 ounce steak, and also invokes weight Watchers.
Based by screenwriter Dan Fogelman on a real life situation, driving with his mother cross-country, it could be the story of any mother and 30 year old single son with the laughter, tears and, especially the guilt, that would happen on such a trip. Many of the scenes take place in a small car and assorted hotel rooms just with the two stars so the chemistry between Streisand, as the mother Joyce, and Seth Rogen, as the son Andrew, is important and it works. They really look and act as parent and child and are obviously enjoying their time together making the film. There are no out loud funny scenes but you will find yourself smiling, and occasionally chuckling, during the movie and you might even tear up now and then.
Much has been made of the fact that this is Streisand’s first starring role since 1996 in “The Mirror Has Two Faces” and, though this is far from an award winning film and/or role, she still has the acting and comedy chops and she is looking good. Rogen is fairly quiet in this film, though managing a few outrageous remarks, as if knowing the quieter he was while on screen with Streisand the better he would come across.
The rest of the performers, except for Brett Cullen who gives tips on how to eat that steak dinner, don’t really have that much time to make an impression--we are dealing with a film where Kathy Najimy has 2-3 lines with just that amount of time on screen.
Fogelman and the director Anne Fletcher seem to hang back from going further than comic sketches including the ending which leaves a lot of open ended questions almost as if they are hoping this film does good enough for a sequel which won’t happen.
Streisand fans will definitely like this film while Rogan fans might be disappointed that he subdues his usual bombastic character roles. “The Guilt Trip” is a pleasant, fast moving 96 minutes film to see during the holiday week and one of the funniest moments taking place in the outtake credits. Mother and sons will identify with many moments between Streisand and Rogan.