The Guilt Trip
BOY CULTURE REVIEW: *** out of ****
I went into this Barbra Streisand/Seth Rogen mom/son buddy movie expecting it to be as meandering and pointless as its unfunny trailer, but I was pleasantly surprised. Eventually. In the beginning, it was hard to take the unlikable characters—Streisand's Jewish mother a smothering nag, Rogen's inventor son cold and seemingly filled to the brim with resentment. It could've been Psycho: The Prequel. Then, once a huge fight cleared the air, watching the characters embark on a long road trip as the son attempts to sell an all-natural cleaner he's invented became a pleasure. In particular, it was fun watching Streisand let her hair down, avoid vanity shots (except toward the end, where her hair suddenly looks like buttah) and crack wise, not to mention scarf down a steak that would have choked a prize fighter. The film holds a couple of bittersweet surprises, but the biggest shocker is that it's not a broad, Fockers-like comedy, but something if not deep then certainly more to be felt than simply enjoyed.
On the Road
BOY CULTURE REVIEW: ** out of ****
Less fun was sitting through Walter Salles's take on Jack Kerouac's classic On the Road. A thinly disguised memoir chronicling Kerouac's (Sam Riley as "Sal Paradise") relationships with Neal Cassady (Garrett Hedlund as "Dean Moriarty"), Allen Ginsberg (Tom Sturridge as "Carlo Marx"), the book does not fare well on the big screen, with most of the characters coming off as ridiculously pretentious, selfish and vapid. Or maybe that's how I'd react to reading the book at age 44. One thing's for sure—Riley does not conjure up whatever it is people find appealing about Kerouac, and that is a fatal flaw. The story still stings, even in a not-great adaptation, because it's about the devastation that charm can visit upon the romantic. I was also enamored of Garrett Hedlund's I-shouldn't-love-him intensity as well as his oft-glimpsed power-fucking. I never though I'd say this, either, but Kristen Stewart (as a not-that-innocent child bride) and Kirsten Dunst (as a woman who thinks she's tamed "Dean" but soon finds out she was sorely mistaken) are the absolute highlights, managing to fill their characters with more emotion and complexity with less camera time than all of the guys combined. Overall, it had me murmuring, "Are we there yet?"