Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Cinema File #168: "The Guilt Trip" Review

I know I'm pretty late on this one, but I just watched The Guilt Trip, and I need to vent a little bit. Now, of course, you might be saying to yourself, “there was no way this snarky bastard was going to like this movie, so why is he even reviewing it in the first place?” And you'd be absolutely right. I didn't like this movie at all, and I didn't expect to either, not being a 50-something housewife or a gay baby boomer still weirdly obsessed with Barbara Streisand movies despite there never being a good one, and not being one of those insufferable people who think Seth Rogan's funny for some reason. This was not a movie meant for me, and it was as inaccessible to me as it possibly could have been. But I still watched it, and I can't unwatch it, so I might as well talk about it.

The Guilt Trip follows a down on his luck inventor making a last ditch effort cross country trip to pitch his product to the nation's various big box stores, taking his nagging mother along for the ride after he learns that she once dated the president of a major company he wants to pitch to. I wanted to end that sentence with “and wacky hi jinks ensue” if only to be cheeky, but for the life of me, I can't even honestly do that. I lack the words to express to you in the appropriate scope the vast amount of nothing that happens in this thing that claims to be a crazy road movie. I expected it to fail as comedy, but I didn't expect it to go so far out of its way to assault me with how painfully unfunny it was.

To say that it doesn't try hard is missing the point. This movie tries hard at not trying hard. The vast majority of the action takes place in the economy car head on shots that monopolize the trailer, as if to flaunt its abdication of the responsibility to be even a little bit funny set forth by a long and noble tradition of road movies and buddy comedies. Our two main characters seemingly improvise the vast majority of their dialogue in a dead pan back and forth so dry and emotionally draining that I had to turn off the movie at least four times just to build up the energy to continue. Oh how I wish I hadn't bothered. Damn my commitment to actually finishing even the worst movies in order to provide an honest review, as if I couldn't fake my way through one after watching the first twenty minutes of this garbage.

At about the half way mark, the movie gives up all pretense of claiming to be a comedy and then seems to try its hand at drama as the relationship between mother and son turns sour. We get the emotional blowout as secrets are revealed and long simmering anxieties bubble to the surface. And fuck if I couldn't care less about any of it. When we finally get back to the “comedy” in a scene where the mother tries to eat a giant steak in order to get it for free at a restaurant in Texas, it was the one time my hopes were actually piqued, not because I thought it might be amusing, but because I thought that just maybe the film might take a darker turn where she choked to death, causing her son to drive his rental car off of the nearest bridge out of guilt, revealing the horrible twist meaning of the title. This was the movie I was writing in my head leading into the climax.

So how should I bring all this together into a recommendation? As I said before, I was never going to like this film, and it didn't disappoint in being disappointing. Maybe you are the kind of person to whom this movie is designed to appeal to. Perhaps you are so bereft of a life worth living that this hollow mess is just the thing to make your day better. But even then, I have to imagine that just sitting in a darkened room and staring off blankly into the middle distance while the void that is your mind ticks sadly away until your inevitable death would be more emotionally fulfilling and intellectual stimulating, not to mention cheaper. I would succumb to tears if my heart were not so hardened by the experience. In other words, this movie is terrible, and you should probably just skip it. 

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