Labor Day is a Big, Gooey Mess of a Movie
- Friday, January 31, 2014
DVD Release Date: April 29, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: January 31, 2014
Rating: PG-13 (for thematic material, brief violence and sexuality)
Run Time: 111 min.
Director: Jason Reitman
Cast: Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Gattlin Griffith, Tobey Maguire, Clark Gregg, Tom Lipinski, James Van Der Beek, J.K. Simmons, Brooke Smith
After an impressive streak of quality filmmaking that began with a whip-smart commentary on corporate spin control in 2006's Thank You for Smoking and includes Juno, Up in the Air and 2011's underrated critique of arrested development, Young Adult, writer/director Jason Reitman finally has a bona fide stinker on his resumé with Labor Day.
Labor Day is so shamelessly sappy and devoid of any connection with reality that Nicholas Sparks, the gold standard in softly lit romantic escapism, would probably even say "Whoa, take it down a few notches!" One can't help wondering what Reitman was thinking.
Based on a novel by Joyce Maynard, Labor Day lacks everything that's made Reitman's past work so memorable—relevant social commentary tempered with a side of snark, a strong emotional core and perhaps the most important component of all, well-rounded characters.
Kate Winslet (Contagion) and Josh Brolin (Oldboy) give it all they've got as actors, a tribute to their respective talents. But the syrupy script, the mind-numbing plot and the inherent gooiness are simply impossible to overcome. Basically, if you've seen a Lifetime TV movie and wondered what would happen if an A-lister replaced Jennifer Love Hewitt or Tori Spelling as the damsel in distress, well, you're in luck.
Staying true to so many of the emotionally depleted characters she's tackled in the past, Winslet plays Adele, a frail soul so scarred by the outside world that she's afraid to leave her cluttered house. Ditched by her husband (Clark Gregg, (500) Days of Summer) for his secretary long ago, the only real sense of security she has is the company of her 13-year-old son Henry.
It's during a rare shopping trip, however, that Adele's ho-hum existence is given quite a jolt. While Adele shops for Henry's school clothes and Henry looks at comic books, Henry is approached by Frank (Brolin), a muscular, menacing presence with blood dripping from his side. Insisting that Henry and his mother give him a ride to their home ("frankly, this needs to happen," he threatens), Frank accompanies Adele and Henry to the checkout line, acting like he's just another member of the family. Why Adele or Henry don't scream, protest or at the very least inform the checkout girl, security, anyone, of what's going on is anyone's guess.
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