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A trip worth taking

The dynamic love-hate relationship between mother and son is wonderfully saluted in the amusing and not-to-be-missed Guilt Trip. If ever you wanted to take a back seat on an intimate 3000-mile road trip across America with a mother and her son, Guilt Trip is a journey you can wholeheartedly partake in and will definitely remember long after leaving the cinema.

If there's one reason to see this film, it's for the heavenly teaming of funny man Seth Rogen and "funny girl" Barbra Streisand. Rogen is fantastic as the idealistic inventor of a 100% natural and green-friendly cleaning product, whose dream of getting his product sold is thwarted by a mother whose overbearing caring deflates his self-esteem. Streisand is brilliant as the ultimate Jewish mum who cannot believe her luck when her surly son invites her to spend so much time with her in the same space. Rogen and Streisand prove that the art of comedy and comedic action do not rely on bi-eyed antics, but detailed and temperate understatement.

A trip worth taking
A trip worth taking

Explosive but fragile understanding

The comedy (or humour) that results out of the situations they find themselves in reveals and gradually unpeels their explosive but fragile understanding. Director Anne Fletcher makes the most of Dan Flogelman screenplay; as with Crazy for Love, Flogelman displays his natural talent for writing character-driven comedy, and Fletcher (who directed films ranging from The Proposal to the dance romance Step Up) is clearly an actor's director. Fletcher's hands-on approach allows her cast to bring the characters and story to life naturally, without forcing it.

It's not always possible to understand why mothers can sometimes seem so unreasonable towards compromise when it comes to their sons, or sons be so unwilling to their mother's demands, but with Guilt Trip it is clear that friendship is the glue to a solid relationship. After watching Guilt Trip it is guaranteed that most sons (and daughters) would do anything to spend more time with their mother; also, most mothers will respect the privacy and individuality of their children without getting too mushy about it.

Guilt Trip is one of those films in which you not only enjoy the journey, but totally get involved with what's happening and who it is happening to. The fond attachment and bond with the characters dawns on you once you realise that you are not actually on the trip with them, but sitting in a cinema. The only guilt you feel is not being there to say goodbye.

Instead of laughing at the silly, and sometimes ridiculous predicaments and dilemmas they sometimes confront, you will share the humorous encounters empathetically as it poignantly reflects our connection to those who share our lives and are sometimes shunned for all the wrong reasons. See Guilt Trip and you will not only connect more contentedly to others who share your journey, but with your inner journey of mapping out your life's path.

Behind the scenes

There may be no two people on Earth more capable of pushing each other's buttons than a grown-up son and his mother - but in The Guilt Trip a mother and son end up pushing all the right buttons to come closer in the midst of a wild-and-crazy trip that threatens to drive them both crazy.

The film's comically moving journey began with a real-life road trip, when screenwriter Dan Fogelman took his mum on an marathon two-week escapade across the US - one that was as full of revelations and surprises as it was rife with typical family love and friction. It was an experiment that jibed with a movie idea that had been cooking in Fogelman's mind for a long time.

"I've always been intrigued by mother-son relationships," said Fogelman, "and I wanted to write something about that moment in your life, which sometimes doesn't come until later in life, when you really see your parents for the first time as actual human beings; when you suddenly say 'Wow, this is not just my mum, but a person with a whole life and relationships and past loves that existed long before I ever existed,' and that transforms how you react to each other."

He continued: "So I called up my mum and said: 'Hey, I'm going to pick you up; would you like to go on a cross-country trip with me?' I really had no idea what might happen if a mother and son were actually locked in a car for several days together, but it was an incredible trip and pretty much everything that happens in the movie came from those two weeks with my mum."

Fogelman was prepared for anything on his experimental escape with his mother, but he had an even better time than he imagined. "Some of my friends said to me: 'What are you doing? How can you possibly drive cross country with your mother?' And, of course, we had our moments, but we also have a very fun, cool relationship," he noted. "As soon as we took off, I started writing down everything that happened to us verbatim - from getting stuck in an Arkansas snowstorm to mum attempting to eat a 72-ounce piece of meat at a Texas steakhouse."


About Daniel Dercksen

Daniel Dercksen has been a contributor for Lifestyle since 2012. As the driving force behind the successful independent training initiative The Writing Studio and a published film and theatre journalist of 40 years, teaching workshops in creative writing, playwriting and screenwriting throughout South Africa and internationally the past 22 years. Visit

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