World’s ugliest beautiful woman Barbra Streisand teams up with the funniest, most lovable schlub of his generation, Seth Rogen, in this hilarious, touching story about an obnoxious New Jersey widow invited by her son to accompany him on a cross-country road trip as he attempts with generally pathetic results to sell his invention and life’s work, a potent and potable cleaning product awkwardly christened (so to speak) Scioclean. Unknown to the mother, though, is that the son has actually lured her onto this expedition, not just to spend some quality time with Mom, but to reunite her with an old flame who may be living in San Francisco. This chick flick is frankly a joy from start to finish and should, thanks to Rogen’s presence, be nearly as palatable for men as for its primary audience of menopausal women, with Streisand and Rogen comprising one of the strongest comedy teams in recent memory. Sure to pluck the heartstrings and bust the collective gut of those who like their comedy kosher and pickled in a brine of gratuitous kvetching.
Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Guilt Trip is:
10. Pro-gay. Streisand’s Pilates instructor is a lesbian. During the trip, she subjects the hapless Rogen to the seemingly interminable audiobook of Middlesex, a novel about a hermaphrodite’s sexual self-discovery.
9. Mildly anti-Christian. Christians are at no point vilified, but The Guilt Trip does evince a kind of innocuous condescension toward Christianity, which comes across as quaint and kitschy. “God bless, y’all,” stripper Moonlight (Analeis Lorig) says in one of the film’s few allusions to faith. And Tulsa, Oklahoma, Streisand reads in a brochure, is purported to be home to the world’s largest praying hands. (see also no. 5)
8. Anti-drug. Drinking can lead to trouble.
7. Diversity-skeptical. Notwithstanding no. 4, The Guilt Trip hints at the painfully artificial contortions into which America twists itself to accommodate ethnic plurality. Rogen, who objects when his mother says “oriental”, meets with uncomfortable silence himself when, during a pitch for Scioclean, he offends the self-loathingly p.c. sensibilities of a board of K-Mart executives by growling “soy!” in the voice of a gruff karate master. Among the executives is a humorless, unsmiling black woman, no doubt promoted to her position through affirmative action. Failing to dodge the insidious Scylla of racial sensitivity, Rogen also smacks against the Charybdis of sex when he jokes, “And trust me, I didn’t stay three years [at the EPA] because of the ladies.” Like most men of his generation, he is neurotic at best when confronted with the cruel demands and exigencies of p.c. totalitarianism. Sadly, Streisand, after worrying aloud that a hitchhiker might try to rape her, is apparently driven by feelings of racial guilt to pick up a Mexican drifter (who luckily turns out to be mild-mannered), thus demonstrating how the psychological ravages of political correctness endanger not only good taste and common sense, but people’s lives, as well.
6. Green-ambivalent. Rogen is a former EPA operative and his cleaning product is made entirely from natural, sustainable ingredients. However, the aforementioned irreverence about the women of the EPA may be taken to imply that environmentalism is the pet preoccupation of the ugly, nerdy, or otherwise unappealing. Streisand, in what appears to be a piece of sarcasm on the screenwriter’s part, invokes the mystery of “this climate change thing” when a snowstorm strikes in Tennessee.
5. South-ambivalent. Southerners are, for the most part, depicted as friendly and hospitable, particularly in a Texan steakhouse – although lingering North/South hostility is acknowledged when patrons boo at hearing that Streisand is from New Jersey. Moonlight, a stripper the pair meets in Tennessee, is especially helpful when they have car trouble (and is also very much a slut). A scary redneck in a bar does, however, become pushy when Rogen objects to his sexual aggression toward his mother (see also no. 9).
4. Multiculturalist/pro-miscegenation. Streisand and Rogen’s characters’ surname, Brewster, suggests Anglo-Saxon-Semite interbreeding, and Barbra’s aged charms do prove irresistible for more than one macho cowboy on the pair’s swing through the southern states. The film ends with the suggestion that Streisand may be entering into a potentially serious relationship with Texan businessman Ben Graw (Brett Cullen). One of Rogen’s ex-girlfriends is Asian. Races mix at a mature singles’ club and in an airport, where a black man stands with an Asian woman. The airports depicted in the film are clearly designed to show people of different ethnicities (complete with a gentleman in a turban) interacting peacefully, the happily equal cogs of a multicultural clockwork. There are even a few blacks (probably lynched after filming ended) to be spotted in the Texan steakhouse. (cf. no. 7)
3. Anti-marriage. An ex-girlfriend of Rogen’s is happily married and pregnant, but one of Streisand’s friends (Kathy Nijimy) is glad to be rid of her recently deceased husband, who is described as “horrible”. Streisand, too, is relieved to have her bed to herself, since she now has the liberty to eat M&Ms in bed whenever she likes.
2. Capitalist/corporate. The Guilt Trip reminds communist whiners and weenies that, toiling and struggling like ants at the feet of those oft-reviled corporate giants and monocle-sporting exploiters of the masses, are millions of honest, self-made small businessmen who risk personal capital and earn every penny they manage to keep. “My little Donald Trump,” Streisand dotes. The film does, however, feature copious product placement for the aforementioned corporate giants.
1. Family-ambivalent. While The Guilt Trip is very much preoccupied with family, and the son’s occasionally prickly but deeply devoted relationship with his mother provides the film’s satisfying emotional meat, the father is conspicuously absent from the formula. “I was your mother and your father,” Streisand declares with self-satisfaction. The mother-son combo would appear to be the new nuclear family for the twenty-first century.