Sunday, February 2

Labor Day Review

Labor Day
Dir: Jason Reitman
Starring: Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, and Gattlin Griffith

Jason Reitman, director of “Juno” and “Up In The Air”, writes and directs “Labor Day” based off a novel by Joyce Maynard. The story surrounds a mother and son who unwillingly give refuge to a fugitive man. With an excellent cast, that headlines the noteworthy performances of Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet, Reitman’s film seems prime for excellence. Unfortunately an unconvincing script offers a love story that wallows with emotional misfires.

Henry (Gattlin Griffith) is a 13-year-old boy maturely charged with taking care of his depressed mother Adele (Kate Winslet).  Adele is emotionally wounded and heartbroken, Henry is the only reason for the minimal stability she demonstrates. Adele also has social anxiety, leaving the house for grocery shopping once a month. While out Adele and Henry are confronted by a wounded man named Frank (Josh Brolin) who asks, by threatening Henry, for a ride back to their home. Frank is an escaped convict who is also haunted by the decisions by the events of his past but also fills a void in Adele and Henry’s life.

The film takes place over the course of a Labor Day weekend. In roughly three days Frank invades the lives of the mother and son and, in this short time, Adele transitions from terrified victim to madly in love accomplice. Winslet is great as usual, making Adele an affected character with a deeply personal past that has changed her entire life. For a time her portrayal makes the character’s transformation plausible. However the script, specifically the details of her devastating past, undermines the decisions she makes as a mother and the choices associated with her newfound love Frank. Amidst the romance is also a coming of age story for young Henry, who is already maturely confident in his own right but also confused about the new feelings invading his life. His interaction within the relationships of both of his disjointed families, his father Gerald (Clark Gregg) abandoned Adele for a new family, are insightful into the transgressions of adults. Brolin is good as Frank, his character unusually composed as a menacing good guy offers Brolin opportunity to display subtle emotional conflictions. Still, there are moments that even the two talented actors can’t help. One being a cooking scene, reminiscent of “Ghost”, that is drenched with forced metaphors and awkward sexuality.

Reitman, even with stumbles in the script, manages to make a film that looks good. It is photographed well with an amber tint accompanied by focused visuals and the design of the late 1980’s is ingeniously detailed throughout.

While the film emphasizes the romantic sentiments of Adele and Frank, the interesting aspects reside in young Henry and his journey, forced or otherwise, into the intricacies of adulthood. While Reitman at times maintains some of the headier emotional substance cultivated through the three main characters, it feels in the end as merely subtle touches in the narrative. “Labor Day” is a mix of interesting and trivial themes, depending on what you’re looking for will determine your appreciation of the film.

Monte’s Rating

3.00 out of 5.00

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