Written by: Jason Reitman, based on the novel by Joyce Maynard
Directed by: Jason Reitman
Starring: Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin
Story: When single mother Adele and her son Henry give a ride to fugitive Frank, they begin to learn more about his story and the truth behind his crime.
Anyone familiar with Jason Reitman’s work might go into this film expecting a quirky and surprising comedy along the lines of ‘Juno’ or ‘Up In The Air’. If this is, in fact what you are looking for, then give Labor Day a miss.
Jason Reitman has adapted Joyce Maynard’s novel almost to a tee, bringing to the screen the sentimentality and emotional vulnerability of each and every character. Kate Winslet once again proves she is one of the best actresses of this time, giving us an Adele who is all at once broken and very together. Her maturity is both impenetrable and very hard to ignore. Brolin compliments her nicely, though there is a chemistry between the two which is undoubtedly missing.
What really lets this story down is the thin narrative, which offers the unnecessary subplot of Henry and his first love Eleanor, who seems to be somewhat of a lighthouse for abandoned and unstable children. The dialogue becomes dull at times, as if inserted to stretch the story. The film plays incredibly slowly: two hours almost feels like three or four when we are stuck with moments of silence, and a film that somehow never really builds but keeps steady momentum for it’s entirety.
We cannot help but wonder if the whole thing would have been more enjoyable if the story had been somewhat remotely believable. The novel itself was indeed fiction, but it seems to test the realms of imagination when an escaped fugitive takes up home with a single mother and somehow a fierce love affair forms in the space of three days. Even watching this convicted murderer who suddenly turns handyman, sports coach, and master chef is enough to shake your head at. If you have a keen imagination and can let yourself fall into a story which plays very close to reality but with a few major flaws, this might be the right movie for you.
The cinematography is stunning, and is perfectly partnered with a soundtrack by Rolfe Kent (‘Up In The Air’). These two combined could perhaps generate a lump in the throat of those not completely distracted by the far too predictable ending to the story.
Labor Day is a very grown up story and can perhaps grasp a few of us for a second, but it is enjoyable at best and probably one of the least exciting films you will see this year.