Labor Day Movie Review
Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin star as unlikely lovers in the new romantic drama Labor Day, a movie that is thankfully better than its title.
Winslet plays a depressed, lonely and socially frightened mother who finds herself being jarred back to reality when an escaped convict (Brolin) takes her and her son hostage, if you can call cooking them fantastic food, teaching the boy how to play baseball and showing her how to love a man again "being taken hostage." The story is told through the eyes of the son Henry (Gattlin Griffith), who is starting to realize his own sexuality.
Jason Reitman has painted a beautiful, vivid and at times soothing drama that soaks you in restrained passion. There is nothing fiery about the romance between Winslet and Brolin, and yet Reitman makes us believe in their love. It's an adult love, one in which the two simply click and become lost in one another. It's easy to overlook but convincing an audience that two people - especially a protective mother and an escaped felon - could fall in love so easily and quickly is not a simple task; Reitman makes it look easy.
Winslet is good, as is Griffith, but Brolin is the standout star, his charisma enriching every moment he's on screen. Oddly enough, in hindsight, his character is almost too likable. He's gone to prison for a crime he only sort of committed, but he is just so perfect, so untouched by the horrors of prison, that it's almost mindboggling. You won't mind when watching him on screen, but did Reitman, who wrote the screenplay from a novel by Joyce Maynard, make him too angelic? Or is that what he's supposed to be... an angel?
Labor Day doesn't always work. There are a few stretches that could have been tightened. Reitman occasionally veers into the weird as he splices in visions of the boy's sexual fantasies and other thoughts, a technique/concept that is compelling but so underutilized that it comes off as half baked, even gimmicky. The film's final moments are also a bit cheesy, and why the hell does Tobey Maguire show up for a minute of screen time? Strange. Thanks to her makeup, the cute little girl looks like a demon child from a horror movie. Seriously.
Labor Day is an alluring romantic drama that doesn't rely on the chemistry between its stars as much as the beautiful and engaging direction by Jason Reitman. It isn't a movie without its flaws, but it's a worthwhile picture nonetheless.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.