Printer Friendly Version
Director: Jason Reitman
Starring: Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, and Gattlin Griffith
3.00 out of 5.00
Movie Review — “Labor Day”
MONTE YAZZIE ~ THE FOOTHILLS FOCUS~ 2/5/2014
Jason Reitman, director of “Juno” and “Up In The Air,” wrote and directed “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 seemed prime for excellence.
Unfortunately an unconvincing script offered a love story that wallows with emotional misfires.
Henry (Gattlin Griffith) is 13-year-old boy maturely charged with taking care of his depressed mother Adele (Kate Winslet). Adele is emotionally wounded and heartbroken, and 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 not only haunted 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 3 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 was great as usual, making Adele an affected character with a deeply personal past that has changed her entire life. For a time, her portrayal made the character’s change plausible.
However, the script, specifically the details of her devastating past, undermined the decisions she made as a mother and the choices associated with her newfound love, Frank.
Amidst the romance was also a coming of age story for young Henry, who was already maturely confident in his own right, but also confused about the new feelings that were invading his life. Henry’s interaction within the relationships of both of his disjointed families—his father Gerald (Clark Gregg) abandoned Adele for a new family—were insightful into the transgressions of adults.
Brolin was good as Frank. His character unusually composed as a menacing good guy offered Brolin opportunity to display his subtle emotional conflictions.
Still, there were moments that even the two talented actors couldn’t help. One being a cooking scene, reminiscent of “Ghost”, that was drenched with forced metaphors and awkward sexuality.
Reitman, even with stumbles in the script, managed to make a film that looks good. It was photographed well with an amber tint accompanied by focused visuals and the design of the late 1980s was ingeniously detailed throughout.
While the film emphasized 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 maintained some of the headier emotional substance cultivated through the three main characters at times, in the end it felt as if that content merely made subtle touches in the narrative. “Labor Day” was a mix of interesting and trivial themes that, depending on what you’re looking for, will determine your appreciation of the film.