Director Jason Reitman tackled lobbyists in Thank You For Smoking, teen pregnancy in Juno and cut throat corporate America in Up In The Air. It may have been a diverse and complicated set of subject matter for a director to undertake, but Reitman excelled with these challenges in the early stages of his directing career. This time around, the young director may have bitten off more than he can chew as he entered the realm of chick flick in his new film Labor Day.
Labor Day is best described as one of those ridiculous romance novels you see at the check out counter at your neighborhood convenience store. An isolated single mother named Adele (Kate Winslet) and her son Henry (Gattlin Griffith) are forced to hide Frank the escaped prisoner (Josh Brolin) in their rundown house. Labor Day starts out intense because convict’s intentions are unclear and we are unsure if he’s there to harm the family. Then, in true chick flick fashion, Frank’s directive becomes clear. He is there to clean up the house, make some pies and the get depressed and lonely Adele to fall in love with him. Yes people, Labor Day is just as absurd as it sounds.
Lucky for Reitman and the audience, Winslet is present to raise the experience of Labor Day with her acting prowess. Winslet’s Adele hardly makes a peep in the first hour of Labor Day, but Winslet is still able to project deep sadness with just a look of her eyes or the shaking of her hands. Seeing Adele come out of her shell for a fugitive is ludicrous, but Winslet is able to give the move some credibility through her performance. Brolin is stoic as always, but his performance is overshadowed by the unbelievable actions and reactions of his character.
In the end, Jason Reitman has way too much going on in Labor Day that prevents the film from living up to his past works. Is Labor Day a thriller, a romance or a coming of age tale about a broken family? The problem is that Labor Day is actually all three and the sum of the parts don’t add up. Still, Reitman continued to shove square pegs into circle holes with his Labor Day plot up until the anti-climatic conclusion. Lucky for the ambitious young director, Winslet’s strong presence helps Labor Day rise just above mediocrity and will keep you weirdly interested at times.
Overall, I give Labor Day 2.5 out of 4 stars.
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