Seeing “The Guilt Trip” reminded me of one car trip with Norman Mailer. Like Barbra Streisand, he was Jewish and strict with everything.
While he was on a book tour for “Tough Guys Don’t Dance,” we drove up the Coast from San Francisco and passed San Simeon.
“Norman, where are we going?”
“A friend has lent me his house on the bay with a spectacular view, and I wanted to show it to you.”
“How long will the drive be? I’m hungry?”
“It’s not far,” he said with a slight smile.
After driving three hours, he said, “We’re here!” I was expecting a Frank Lloyd Wright-style home and a waiter serving cocktails -- instead the driveway had a broken tricycle blocking the entrance and, inside, cobwebs hung from the ceiling.
“Look at the lake,” he said as he walked outside. “I want to make love to you. Right here. Right now.”
“But Norman, this place is horrible.”
“It has special memories for me.” Norman sat down on a brick wall and screamed, “Ouch.” A thorn had pierced his buttocks.
“I want to go back to the St. Francis, please,” I said trying to comfort him.
Which we did, and I had gotten to know a bit more about Norman Mailer.
I was reminded of the trip as I watched “The Guilt Trip.”
This is a good film, and it has a lot of pressure on it because it stars Streisand. But we should be pleased that Streisand, who plays Joyce Brewster, came out of near retirement to help cheer us up this holiday season.
She portrays an overpowering Jewish mother to inventor Seth Rogen (Andy Brewster), but she is gentle and kind in this portrait of a mother whom many of us know whether we are Jewish or not.
She does not turn this film into a shriek-fest. Their disagreements are subtle, and Rogen usually reacts face down or in an I- can't-believe-it expression -- but rarely with anger or angst. Indeed, this is not meant to be a belly laughs comedy but an I've-been-there-with -my-mother-many-times comedy.
Streisand should have been nominated for a Golden Globe. Pity.
In the film, Rogen’s character journeys from California to visit his mother, who is a widow terrified to go on a date. his mother's isolation, in an act of selflessness, he invites her on a cross-country ride to accompany him to pitch a product he has invented -- an eco-friendly cleaning fluid -- to stores across the country.
Talking to her in an intimate manner that he had not done before, he discovers she was in love with another man before she married his father – and he had been named Andy after this man.
He Googles his mother’s former love and finds out he lives in San Francisco – then secretly plans a stop in San Francisco to arrange a meeting between his mother and her first love.
So Joyce and Andy trek across America with confrontations along the way, but with each confrontation a closer relationship is formed.
Writer Dan Fogelman and director Anne Fletcher keep the humor low key while we wait for Joyce to ruin her son's chance of selling his invention, while she tries to fix him up with women and he tries to fix her up with men -- including one who watches her win a contest to scarf down a mammoth 4-pound steak and all its accouterments so that she won’t have to pay the $100 for the steak.
With each lock-horns disagreement, I found myself rooting for this odd couple to relate and get on with their lives. And that is just what happens.
At this time in our nation, when violence and guns are the mainstay of the plot of so many movies, you will not find them in “The Guilt Trip.” Rather you will find a loving look at a complex mother/son relationship that heals itself in its own time.
How great that you get to watch this journey.