Movie Review
Labor Day
Labor Day poster
By Craig Younkin     Published February 23, 2014
US Release: December 27, 2013

Directed by: Jason Reitman
Starring: Tobey Maguire , Kate Winslet , James Van Der Beek , Josh Brolin

PG-13 for thematic material, brief violence and sexuality
Running Time: 111 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $13,110,000
Contrived, draggy, and always a sillier situation than it is a romantic one.
Craig Younkin is also a reviewer for Movie Room Reviews

Who knew Jason Reitman was so hard-up for a movie that he would have to turn to porn? He seemed to be doing so well - ďUp in the AirĒ, ďJunoĒ - carving out a niche for himself as a filmmaker of smart adult comedies. Where did he go wrong? Iíve seen nothing in the tabloids. Usually you can see these kinds of downfalls coming. But here he is doing ďLabor DayĒ, which turns an average holiday into severely odd mommy-smut. Itís based off a novel by Joyce Maynard, who I can only imagine watches ďLockupĒ on MSNBC thinking these guys secretly just want to be contestants on "The Bachelorette."

Taking place in 1987, it centers around Henry (Gattlin Griffith) and his severely depressed mother Adele (Kate Winslet). Dad (Clark Gregg) has run off with a new wife, refusing to deal with Adeleís depression any longer, but Henry is eager to fill the void in his motherís life in every sweet, child-like way he can. But deep down this is a family in desperate need of a special kind of kidnapper, one who can fill the voids left in both of their lives. Enter Frank (Josh Brolin), an escaped convict looking to lay low for a while. Frank toes the line between being comforting and menacing, heís dangerous but also a wounded soul. Watch the way he sensually binds Adeleís hands to a chair, then makes dinner, then feeds it to her. Thatís husband material gents!

But Frankís perfection is only getting warmed up. Frank also does work around the house, makes dinners, fixes the car, cleans the gutters, becomes the father who can play catch with Henry and show him how to do man stuff like change a tire. This is all happening during one short weekend mind you, but even if it wasnít, Frank seems to do everything like the father of the year and husband of the year board may arrive to do an evaluation any second. By the time we find out heís also an experienced pie baker (yes, he also has a sensual way with the peaches he mashes with his hands) I learned something; young girls can have their vampires and werewolves, but the more mature, older woman will always go for the convicted murderer.

But where Frank and Adele seem tailor made for each other, mostly because a really contrived screenplay made them tailor made for each other, a movie like this always needs an iceberg and here that berg is a society, actually a small town covered with dirt roads and trees, working to thwart convict-single mother love at every turn and itís to Reitmanís credit that you do in some way want this couple to win out, even though you have your doubts.

For what itís worth, Winslet is very good as this shaky, vulnerable woman in need of love while Brolin is sometimes scary/sometimes Batman to complete perfection. Griffith is even good as this overly innocent (sometimes hilariously so) little kid. But itís really hard to take this thing seriously. Contrived, draggy, and always a sillier situation than it is a romantic one, I see Frankís un-ending quest to be man of the year as nothing more than an excuse for quite a few mommies to show up to the theater wearing nothing but trench coats.
Craig's Grade: C
Craig's Overall Grading: 340 graded movies
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'Labor Day' Articles
  • Lee's review C+
    January 23, 2014    Labor Day is strange in its ability to be about almost nothing while still managing to be an almost-engaging picture. -- Lee Tistaert