Director: Jason Reitman
Cast: Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Tobey Maguire
Duration: 111 mins
Release Date: 6 February, 2014
Stephen A Russell says:
Not since American Pie has the internet been ablaze with quite so much uproarious hilarity as it has with the admittedly heavy-handed symbolism of peach piecrust kneading, a la Ghost, present in Jason Reitman’s Labor Day. These scenes, along with an admittedly dubious flashback that seems to suggest adultery is fair game for a fatal bashing, have caused considerable consternation.
And it’s a bit of a shame really, because underneath the melodramatic plot tics, Reitman (Thank You for Smoking, Juno) has crafted a meticulously shot, achingly paced and mesmerically beautiful film that commands impressive performances from both the fabulous Kate Winslet as Adele, yet another sexually repressed housewife (her stock trade these days), and Josh Brolin as mysterious escaped convict Frank.
Adapted by Reitman from Joyce Maynard’s novel, Adele has retreated into self-imposed house arrest after a series of horrific miscarriages sped the demise of her marriage. Gattlin Griffith is also impressive as her teenage son Henry, experiencing an awkward sexual awakening in this stifling atmosphere, which the films makes no bones about playing on.
They encounter a bloody Frank on the run from the cops in the supermarket on one of Adele’s rare trips outside and undergo a sort of passive kidnap, with the three then holing up back home over the Labor day weekend. Romance inexorably blossoms between Frank’ s handyman and a gradually loosening Adele, while Henry is drawn to the interloper as a father figure. The tension in this unusual family unit is ratcheted up as the local cops circle town and nosey neighbours stick their beaks in.
Eric Steelberg’s cinematography is lush, turning even the most mundane images, like the bevelled edge of the front door’s inset window, into visual poetry, with a later scene, between Henry and his first love Eleanor (Brighid Fleming) on a bridge over torrid waters, majestic.
Fleeting cameos by Tobey Maguire and James Van Der Beek are kind of superfluous, but it’s always nice to see the latter, if not the former. We could definitely lose Maguire’s The Great Gatsby voiceover shtick that states the obvious repeatedly and a coda that pushes the sentiment too far. Despite this, there’s an oddly stilted delivery to this story that, far from flummoxing, actually draws you in deeper to this far-fetched but strangely affecting tale.
Review courtesy of The Lowdownunder.
Rotten Tomatoes says: 32% – “Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin make for an undeniably compelling pair, but they can’t quite rescue Labor Day from the pallid melodrama of its exceedingly ill-advised plot.”
The New Yorker: “You have to feel sorry for Brolin. Here was his chance to play hot and nasty, instead of which he ends up presenting a do-it-yourself domestic dream: how to build a family in a weekend.”
Entertainment Weekly says: “In the end, though, Labor Day never comes anywhere close to developing into the sexy Stockholm-syndrome drama it wants to be. It’s just pseudo-romantic hooey. But I will say this: As ridiculous as its creation is, that peach pie looks damn good when it finally comes piping hot out of the oven.”
Vulture says: “A wet Oedipal fantasy with a dash of kink that turns family-friendly with a vengeance…An unintentional howl — a party movie begging for an audience armed with pie crusts, ropes, and a mean streak. It’s so terrible it’s amazing.”
See it: With non-judgemental girlfriends who can appreciate it for what it is.