Film Review: Labor Day

Written by Mallory Delchamp

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Kate Winslet. God bless her. The woman is not only talented but she is also absolutely stunning-even when dressed in frumpy housewife clothing accompanied by unkempt hair. And, unfortunately it seems in her post-Titanic career the starlet seeks out roles and films that just don’t do her justice. Labor Day, the latest film from Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air) is no exception. At first glance the film seemed promising — a stellar cast including not only Winslet and Tobey Maguire but a handsome Josh Brolin as well complete with a Bridges of Madison County-esque plot line; Labor Day could have easily made for a solid romance fit for the upcoming Valentine’s Day weekend. But, sadly Labor Day just doesn’t deliver.

Based on the novel of the same name, Labor Day seems as it would be a coming-of-age story as told by Henry, the young son of Winslet’s character, Adele. And, though I have not read the literary adaptation myself I gather that that is what author Joyce Maynard was trying to convey. However, the movie is pointlessly narrated by Henry and it recounts the events of the Labor Day weekend of 1987. Adele has been left by Henry’s birth father and she now spends most of her time reclusively locked in her house. Henry attempts to fill the void of Adele’s missing husband but he is aware that there are certain needs that he just can’t fill. Enter Josh Brolin. Brolin plays Frank, a prisoner who has escaped the local jail after serving nearly twenty years in prison for murder. As Adele and Henry are walking in the supermarket one day Frank approaches and asks Henry for a ride home. Now, apparently Adele has overlooked the importance of teaching your children to not talk to strangers and Henry reluctantly agrees and Frank returns with them to their home. The three spend Labor Day weekend together and naturally Adele begins to fall in love with Frank. Frank and Adele begin discussing the idea of moving to Canada to escape the police. Now of course things do not go according to plan but the film still manages to have a somewhat happy ending.

In my opinion, Reitman’s latest film just doesn’t have a point. Is it a romance? Is it a thriller? Is it a coming-of-age narrative? I’m still not quite sure. In between the pie making sequences and the flashbacks to Frank’s younger days, Labor Day just can’t seem to stay on one course. Now there are several beautiful moments between Winslet and Brolin but there are also several scenes that are so slow and so pointless that I almost found myself dozing off in the theater. I’m sure Maynard’s novel is a wonderful read but it just didn’t translate to film successfully.

Despite the flawed screenplay Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin shine in their roles. And not surprisingly Winslet is the highlight of this film and her character is honestly the only one I found myself relating to and rooting for through out the 111-minute long melodrama.

Bottom line: Labor Day isn’t completely horrible. It’s about as enjoyable as Dear John, The Last Song, and the other mediocre romantic dramas viewers indulge in every year around the time of singles’ awareness day. But, on a side note I personally believe Reitman should stick to what he knows best-that being quirky, heartfelt dramadies preferably featuring a pregnant Ellen Page or a sassy Anna Kendrick.

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