Labor Day

LD-03295RCC	Photo credit:  Dale Robinette
Labor Day
Directed by Jason Reitman
Starring Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Gattlin Griffith, Tobey Maguire and Clark Gregg
In UK Cinemas March 21st, 2014

by Ruth Thomson

This is director Jason Reitman’s fifth film – previously he cranked up George Clooney’s air miles in Up in the Air and sprinkled sardonic indie fairy dust over Ellen Page and Michael Cera in Juno.

Labor Day tells the story of agoraphobic and depressed single mum Adele (Kate Winslet) and her 12 year old son Henry (Gattlin Griffith) who does his best to combat his mother’s crushing loneliness with breakfasts in bed and a book of hand written ‘husband for a day’ vouchers – cleaning the house, cooking a meal etc – (his real father called it quits some years earlier to set up home with his secretary and family no 2). But let’s face it: some needs can’t be met by a 12 year old making your breakfast. Enter Frank (John Brolin), an escaped convict who needs to hideout in their home before getting on his way at nightfall. In the meantime he cooks up a mean chilli, changes some light bulbs, cleans the kitchen floor, and teaches Harry to play ball. Oh and he looks like Josh Brolin. Ripped and with a hint of menace. You can’t really blame Adele can you…

The whole premise is set up well from the start. In just a few minutes Winslet’s stellar performance and Henry’s narration (by Tobey Maguire) leave us in no doubt as to Adele’s fragile vulnerability and the gaping hole at the heart of the family. Franks dramatic and threatening arrival immediately sets you on edge and the stage is set for something gripping if elusive in its tone. The film is hugely enjoyable and ably acted but it does veer startlingly from one genre to another – one minute it’s a gripping drama with a minimalist sinister score, the next a cheesy romance complete with Spanish guitar – the peach pie scene (yes reader, he bakes) – is so over the top that it prompted audible laughter. And I’m pretty sure Reitman wasn’t aiming to tick the comedy box too.

A scenario that starts tense and terse ends up in some seriously schmaltzy territory which is a shame. Nonetheless Labor Day is definitely worth a watch (if just for the Dawson Leery cameo!)  Just get ready to suspend belief and cross your fingers for a fairy-tale ending.

Our BFI London Film Festival red carpet interview with Jason Reitman:

Jason Reitman

Director Jason Reitman discusses the music and sound of Labor Day.

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