The Guilt Trip will make no one’s Best Movies of 2012 list. It’s a ho-hum, relatively innocuous and occasionally chuckle-inducing buddy/road trip movie about a mother and son who have grown apart and realize by the end that they still do, in fact, love each other. In other words, it’s an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond rewritten with Jersey Jews and spread to 90 minutes. Your mom will like it. That much I can promise.
But where it is significant is in the fact that it makes glaringly obvious the fact that Hollywood has no idea – I repeat: no idea – what to do with a talent like Barbra Streisand. Often referred to as “The Voice”, she is the last in a long line of musical stars from Old Hollywood that include such cinematic royalty as Julie Andrews, Fred Astaire, and Judy Garland. Her acting prowess doesn’t fit in the category with Meryl Streep, but that voice and its power makes her a unique talent in an industry full of clones. (She also happens to have starred in and directed memorable movies like Yentl and The Prince of Tides).
In The Guilt Trip she is essentially playing a less wacky version of the doting Jewish mother she played to Ben Stiller in Meet the Fockers . . . which is ideal and yet still limiting to her talent. She can do so much more if they’d just let her. So many of the sequences in the film would be riotously funny (if not all-out brilliant) if the writers and director would simply let Barbra be Barbra Streisand, instead of just a font of undying maternal embarrassment for her grown son played by Seth Rogen. I can think of at least half a dozen moments in the movie that would have been top notch if they suddenly burst out into a musical number. When Streisand’s on screen, you expect singing – not lame jokes about Jewish sexual positions.
Hopefully Hollywood will figure out what to do with this multi-talented star. Too many historically significant artists have been relegated to lesser parts as they’ve aged – not just Streisand, but Pacino, De Niro, and even Brando have all had to contend with the same quandary. Only Meryl Streep seems to have the secret.
She’s just not human, is she?