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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Movie Review - The Guilt Trip

For the past several months, I kept stumbling across this little film while perusing the Netflix comedy category, looking for nice, family friendly romcoms. I was convinced a Seth Rogen/Barbra Streisand duo would be nothing short of the typical Hollywood raunch fare that my Christian sensibilities can’t stomach, but was I wrong! The Guilt Trip is a wonderful, warm-hearted, funny film that made me laugh and cry the whole way through. After watching, I posted a quick comment on Facebook and received numerous responses from women my age (mostly moms of teenage sons) who loved it as well. I have put it on my “buy” list to include in my favorite movie stash.

For those of us who have grown sons, a story of a single mom/son road trip has the potential to touch our hearts based on the subject matter alone. However, most of us realize that such a scenario in real life would mean things are very desperate, indeed. I can’t imagine my eighteen-year-old son ever wanting to take a week-long excursion in a small economy car with me in a million years, but as a mama, I think it might be fun!

The same is true for Barbra Streisand’s character, Joyce Brewster. A frugal widow who lives for her only son, Andrew (Seth Rogen), Joyce jumps at the chance to accompany him on a cross country trip to help promote his environmentally friendly cleaning product called Scioclean. With a strange name, poor packaging, and an even poorer sales pitch, Andrew has had zero success in marketing his invention and needs a miracle before his last dollar runs out. Before he embarks on one last sales trip, he makes a quick stop home, only to discover a secret from his mother’s past. Apparently, she had been in love with someone else before marrying Andrew’s father and even named Andrew after this man. As expected, Andrew is shocked and a little disturbed at this revelation but becomes intrigued when an Internet search reveals that this mysterious ex-boyfriend is a successful advertising mogul for a large ad agency in San Francisco. A plan is hatched to capitalize on this fortuitous stroke of luck, and with some subtle maneuvering, Andrew convinces Joyce to join him all the way to the final sales meeting which will end in– you guessed it – the Bay area. Not knowing his ulterior motives, Joyce delights in the idea that her darling son genuinely wants to spend quality time with her.

At first, the movie is a tad slow, and the humor is more Streisand being the stereotypical, over-protective and over-indulgent Jewish mother. I laughed at some of the mom jokes, like her zany books on tape, refilling used plastic water bottles from the tap, and dangling her special purse hook from tables—all of which would mortify my kids if they witnessed me do such things. Like most mothers, Joyce tries to be supportive and encouraging when Andrew’s sales efforts fall flat, but her constructive suggestions backfire and only create division and strife. About half-way through the movie, they have a big blow up and things get very interesting. Andrew has to rescue her from a group of drunk men in a hotel bar who don’t know the word “no.”

The drama and sweetness of Andrew taking a punch to the nose in an effort to protect his mama’s honor is followed by one of the most hilarious scene in the film, and it takes place in a Texas steakhouse, of all places. Being a Southerner, I was ignorant of the fact that there are many such restaurants in the longhorn state that offer a free dinner and tee shirt to those who can scarf up a 50 ounce steak with all the fixings and keep it down. Again, being the frugal parent, Joyce volunteers and sets out to finish off a loaded baked potato, salad, and big ole whopper of a steak in one sitting. It may not sound funny reading this, but trust me when I say that Streisand’s kooky mannerisms and feminine sensibilities are classic comedy fare, reminding me of some of her best movies like, What’s Up Doc?, The Way We Were, and A Star is Born. Just love me some Barbra!

** SPOILER ALERT **

There are more tender scenes and plenty of laughs, but the ending is what cinched it for me. Andrews goes from being a boring, narrow-minded salesman, to a bold, out-of-the box marketer who (with the help of his dear mother) finds an ingenious way to sell his special cleaner. Joyce, on the other hand, goes from being a devoted mom who lives only for her son, to a newly enlightened woman who decides to give romance with a handsome Texan a chance. As for the old boyfriend in San Francisco, I won’t give anything away, other than to say that there is a nice surprise waiting in the storyline. Great screenwriting that brought a tear to my eye!

But the best scene of all is at the end, in the airport, as they are about to say good-bye. Joyce’s final words to Andrew struck me straight in the core of my heart. As she so aptly concludes, had she ended up with the San Francisco boyfriend, she would’ve never had Andrew, and Andrew is all that matters. She tells him that life for her has always been about Andrew – that he is the love of her life. Oh, what a clincher! Doesn’t the mother in you wanna bawl? Well, I sure did. 

Who can begin to explain the unfathomable love a mother has for her son? How will our children ever understand that what may seem like a sacrifice for their happiness isn't really a sacrifice at all--it is just the natural part of being a loving parent. This movie captures that wonderful truth beautifully! Sacrifice because of love is the inherent truth of the Gospel message. Let's make sure we pass it on!

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