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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Movie Review - Labor Day

Labor Day (2013)
Starring Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Gattlin Griffith, Clark Gregg, and Tobey Maguire
Directed by Jason Reitman

To the credit of writer-director Jason Reitman, his Labor Day feels very much like a film that could've been made in 1950s Hollywood.  Rightly so or not, had it been made all those decades ago, the film would've at least carried with it a tone of nostalgia for a bygone era and its somewhat ludicrous premise could've at least been glossed over a tiny bit by chalking it up to being from "the good ole days."  Instead, Labor Day was made in 2013 and despite taking place in the mid-1980s, the film feels incredibly dated (quite honestly, were it not for certain conveniences, one could easily have been fooled into thinking the timestamp of the film's plot was 1955).  Don't get me wrong -- I'm all for sentimentality and I don't necessarily look harshly upon movies that try to tug at your heart.  Unfortunately, Labor Day labors a bit too much to pull the heartstrings and proves to be Mr. Reitman's most disappointing film to date.

Kate Winslet is Adele, a depressed single mom trying to raise her teenage son Henry (Gattlin Griffith) in a small rural town.  Recently divorced, Adele has grown more and more sheltered as years have passed, relying on her son to perform errands seeing as how she nearly panics stepping foot into something as mundane as a convenience store.  While braving the real world with Henry at a grocery store one afternoon, Henry is confronted by a mysterious man named Frank (Josh Brolin) who is bleeding from a wound in his side.  He asks Henry and Adele to take him home with them and when they initially resist, Frank gently forces them by proposing the notion that he could hurt them if they don't.  Upon arrival at their house, Frank tells them he is an escaped convict and that he only wants to hide out in their house for a night after which he'll leave.

A decent enough premise, for sure.  However, Adele hasn't had a man around the house for some time and, thanks to some laughable foreshadowing via a golden-hued flashback, she's longing for a man's touch.  Following a pie-making session -- complete with slow motion edits of hands criss-crossing each other and that ever-reliable golden hue -- we know where this story is headed.

Ultimately, I could almost have bought into this immediate connection between Adele and Frank.  However, Reitman hits us over the head so many times with how good a man Frank is -- he teaches Henry how to throw a baseball, he's kind to kids with cerebral palsy (yep...don't ask how that factors in), he fixes things around the house, he cooks -- that it all just becomes eye-roll-inducing after a while.  We are treated to flashbacks of Frank's former life, too, that prove maybe he isn't as bad a guy as he was made out to be.  The whole thing just becomes too treacly and heavy-handed for its own good.

Josh Brolin gives a nice performance here bringing a gentleness that you don't often see from him and young Gattlin Griffith is also quite good.  Kate Winslet's Adele, however, feels a bit too overwrought.  I couldn't help but think I was watching her act rather than seeing her fully embody her character.

Jason Reitman has proven himself worthy in the past.  Unfortunately, Labor Day is a disappointment.  You're better off watching his last flick Young Adult -- criminally under-seen and under-appreciated.  It's streamed on Netlfix in the past, so it may very well pop up there again.

The RyMickey Rating:  C-


  1. This movie is wackadoo. Like everything about it. "Oh, he is a murderer? Well he didn't "mean" to, so he's totally fine, I love him." And then bam, Tobey Maguire.

    Bonkerstown, USA

  2. I can get behind the premise (I guess) in that he really didn't "mean" to kill his wife so it's really just manslaughter, but the wackadoo part comes in when the whole thing unfolds so darn quickly. I mean, because Kate Winslet was longing for a man for so long, the first one that waltzes into her house (or kidnaps her) she falls in love with simply because he touches her while making a pie together? Like I said, it felt very "old school" which I typically am okay with, but couldn't buy into here.