Barbra Streisand Talks Lessons and Laughs in ‘The Guilt Trip’

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About the Author: Susan L. Hornik has written about almost every facet of the television industry for the past 20 years.

Barbra Streisand (right) plays an overbearing mother to Seth Rogen (left) in “The Guilt Trip.”

Family tensions tend to run high anyway during the holiday season, but what if you add in the stress of a long road trip? Barbra Streisand plays the overbearing, yet endearing Joyce Brewster, whose son, Andrew (Seth Rogen), decides to bring her along on an eight-day cross-country trek in The Guilt Trip, in theaters today.

Of course, it’s anything but an ordinary trip, and while the two push each other’s buttons along the way, there is a lot Joyce discovers about herself, says Streisand, 70. Her character has a safe, sheltered existence, “but it doesn’t have passion,” Streisand says. “So she busies herself with frogs — ceramic frogs — and her book club and things like that. But what her son Andy does for her is give her an adventure – he gives her a way to expand her world, which really pays off. He becomes a better person so that they both can become better people. It’s a transformative relationship without them even realizing it.”

An Academy Award winner in 1969 for Best Actress in Funny Girl and nominee for 1973’s The Way We Were, Streisand is also an acclaimed singer, director, writer, producer, designer and author. (She has a second Oscar for “Evergreen” from the 1976 version of A Star Is Born.) A little trivia for you: She is the only artist ever to have been awarded the entire gamut of Oscar, Tony, Emmy, Grammy, Directors Guild of America, Golden Globe, National Medal of Arts and Peabody awards, as well as France’s Légion d’Honneur and the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

You may have seen Babs more recently in the hugely popular Meet the Fockers series, playing a supporting role as wife to Dustin Hoffman and mom to Ben Stiller. But she was uncertain about taking the lead role playing a mom again.

“My son fell in love with the script first,” she says. “I said no to it for a couple of years because I had just played a mother twice in The Fockers and I thought ‘I don’t want to play a third mother.’ But this mother was so real and personal, and since my son loved it, I thought. ‘OK.’ ”

Streisand and Rogen create a great mother-son chemistry. “You just never know what’s going to come out of either one of our mouths, you know?” says Streisand. “It was fun, because we were both very much in the moment. We work alike in a sense and from the first day, we knew that this was going to be wild.”

One of Streisand’s most challenging scenes came when her character suddenly decides to chow down a 50-ounce steak at a Texas steakhouse — with side dishes — in an hour’s time, in order to qualify for a free meal. “I usually go more towards pasta, vegetables, fish, things like that,” she says. “As a matter a fact, I had thought ‘I can’t do this scene’ at first. I thought, ‘How am I going to eat this much steak?’ ”

And underneath the comedy, there’s a lesson as well. “Sometimes you resent the people you love and need the most,” Streisand says. “Love is so fascinating in all its forms. And I think everyone who has ever been a mother will relate to this.”

Would you be willing to take a cross-country trip with your mother or grown child?

Photo credit: Sam Emerson