** (out of 5)
January 31, 2014
Kate Winslet as ADELE
Josh Brolin as FRANK
Gattlin Griffith as HENRY
Tobey Maguire as ADULT HENRY
Tom Lipinski as YOUNG FRANK
Maika Monroe as MANDY
Clark Gregg as GERALD
James Van Der Beek as OFFICER TREADWELL
Directed by: Jason Reitman
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
While I knew virtually nothing about Jason Reitman’s “Labor Day” before actually walking into the theater to see my advanced screening, I wasn’t surprised in the least by what I got.
“Labor Day” has been whispered throughout award season, and that made sense. Jason Reitman had directed previous critical darlings like “Thank You for Smoking,” “Juno,” “Up in the Air” and “Young Adult.” A movie releasing at the end of the year was nothing new, completely expected and par for the course for the slew of nominations it was sure to receive.
The only problem was that “Labor Day” wasn’t marched in front of critics organizations, waving a flag for the young director. Instead, “Labor Day” was shunned in the basement like a mutant child. It was only seen by the relatively few journalists who travel to various film festivals around the country. Oh, and the Hollywood Foreign Press saw it too, resulting in a Golden Globe nomination for Kate Winslet.
The rest of the critical community was locked out. While some of us received a copy of the soundtrack for award consideration (which many of us laughed off, since we’re unlikely to vote for the soundtrack to a film they refused to screen for us), “Labor Day” was kept from prying eyes to be dumped at the end of January, a notorious month for notoriously bad movies on Super Bowl weekend which was notorious for keeping people away from theaters.
When I finally got a chance to see “Labor Day,” I wasn’t surprised it was not very good. The writing was on the proverbial wall.
“Labor Day” tells the story of Adele (Kate Winslet), a single mother in New Hampshire in 1987, trying to raise her son Henry (Gattlin Griffith) after her husband leaves her. While doing their monthly shopping, prior to Labor Day weekend, Adele and Henry encounter Frank (Josh Brolin), an escaped convict who wants to lay low in their house to avoid capture.
What could have turned into a taut thriller fizzles completely once they get back to the house. The film takes a cliched and predictable turn toward Nicholas Sparksville. Adele starts to fall in love with Frank, who is really a gentle man who respects all women. Frank also becomes a father figure to Henry, a role that is painfully lacking in his life.
Between longing stares and the most incestually erotic peach pie baking ever seen on the big screen, we get what amounts to a Lifetime TV movie with bigger stars and a better production value.
The film goes exactly where you expect it, after setting itself up with a frankly ludicrous premise that should have never gotten out of the grocery store. Additionally, the movie tries to tackle too many subplots, including the strained relationship Henry has with his father and his own budding romance with a cynical troubled girl who just moved to town.
It’s nice to see Jason Reitman try something new, but this “Labor Day” is a real chore.