The Guilt Trip is misnamed. A better name might be The Guilt Nibbling Trip, because comfort food appears in practically every scene in this tale of a mother-son cross-country journey starring Barbra Streisand (Joyce Brewster) and Seth Rogen (Andy Brewster).
Sometimes the food can be identified only from the packaging; the labels are seldom clearly shown. This challenges members of the audience to follow the dialog and the food at the same time. Both are fun. I want to see the movie again, take notes, and make a list of the many common amusing situations – what comedy writers call “gags” – that enrich the script.
The complex relationship between Joyce and Andy mirrors our own intergenerational relationships, so one can easily identify with the actors and their roles – unless you’re in a bad parent-child relationship. In that case, see a different movie. One person said she hated The Guilt Trip because she had such a bad relationship with her own parents.
To research this movie, script writer Dan Fogelman took his own mother on a road trip. Many of their experiences became part of the movie’s story line.
Some missed marketing experiences
Little or no effort was made for official product placement, although the potential for such arrangements was great.
Water bottles appear through out the movie. The brands could have changed as the travelers crossed the country, except that the entire film was shot in Los Angeles, so everything used on the set was purchased in Los Angeles.
In the classic scene early in the movie when Joyce refills water bottles, no label was shown, but I was sure from the size and shape of the bottle and the color of the top that she was using the same bottled water I drink. This is not uncommon. One member of my family spent years refilling water bottles until the rest of us talked him out of it.
Joyce voraciously devoured Calbee Salad Snapea Crisps, a product of Calbee America, Inc., in Fairfield, California. They are one of my daughter’s favorites, and are available from many sources, including Whole Foods Market.
“Calbee is a Japanese company that has been in North America for about 30 years, and Salad Snapea for about ten years,” said Mio Sakata, director of brand marketing. Sakata told me he first learned about the use of his product in the movie when a friend who had seen it told him, just before I called.
The biggest plug in the movie is for M&M’s chocolate-covered peanuts, Joyce’s favorite bedtime snack, easily identified by the bright yellow packaging even though the name label never appears on camera. In one very tender scene, Andy rescues some M&M’s from around Joyce’s sleeping body. The movie also has a scene shot outside M&M's World in Las Vegas.
Oddly, Mars, Inc., the maker of M&M’s, rebuffed efforts to discuss the use of its products in the film. This is not Mars’ first movie miss. A popular myth is that the makers of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial wanted to use M&M’s but used instead Reese’s Pieces, a chocolate and peanut-butter confection manufactured by The Hershey Company, Mars’ archrival.
Eating a cow
The Texas-style steak restaurant where Joyce eats a 72-ounce piece of meat does not exist. It is based on a real restaurant, the name of which isn’t mentioned, that scriptwriter Fogelman enountered in his travels. The sequence is well written and hilariously acted. This is where Joyce meets a new love interest who advises her on how to finish the steak and cheers her on to the finish.
Why eat the steak? Joyce and Andy are running short of money. If Joyce manages to eat the meal, it will be free. Otherwise, it will cost $100.
Other food occurrances include a breakfast with turkey bacon, tea, and snacks purchased at a convenience store along the highway; and a wide variety of food items on tables in other scenes. Also, Andy drinks some unidentified alcoholic beverage in his motel room.
Watch the movie and count for yourself all of the different foods, and familiar experiences.
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