Hi, Bryan Here…
In a shift in tone and subject matter for director Jason Reitman (‘Juno‘, ‘Up In The Air‘), his newest film ‘Labor Day‘ is a sweet tale of love and starting over. Originally written by Joyce Maynard with a screenplay treatment by Reitman himself, this gem of a film is a slice of great pie. Sure, this situation would never play out as it did in the film, but is one that we would hope for. With a stellar cast that includes Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Tobey Maguire, J.K. Simmons, Gattlin Griffith, and James Van Der Beek, ‘Labor Day‘ is a holiday I’d revisit again and feel good about it.
‘Labor Day‘ was originally a novel by Maynard, and is transferred to film almost perfectly. The film is set in the mid 1980s as we meet single mother Adele (Winslet) and her young boy Henry (Griffith). Adele’s ex-husband left her for his secretary (Clark Gregg) and still plays a role in Henry’s life. However, the divorce has taken a large toll on Adele. So much so that she is afraid to leave the house but once a month to do grocery shopping. Meanwhile, the young Henry is left to take care of his mother, go to the bank, and fix small things around the house.
While at the local super-market, Henry comes across a stranger named Frank (Brolin) who seems to be bleeding from his stomach. In what seems in a blink of an eye, Frank forces Henry and Adele to help him heal and avoid the authorities. Come to find out, Frank is an escaped convict. His crime was murder, as we see his backstory unravel through a series of wonderfully crafted flashbacks throughout the film. Frank is a great man who is patient, pleasant, extremely nice, and can cook a mean pie.
In the part that would never happen in real life, Adele and Frank begin to fall for each other over the course of a weekend, as Frank fixes the house up, teaches Henry to bake a pie and play catch, and even dances the night away with Adele. Meanwhile, Henry and Adele have to keep Frank a secret as the police are searching for him night and day. Soon, Adele is able to get out of the house with ease and begins to trust people again. On the other hand, Henry is discovering girls and learning what it takes to be a man.
Reitman tells this wonderful story at a magic pace, as we get enough time with these character to truly fall in love with them. It’s also a beautiful film to look at. Brolin and Winslet turn in solid performances and Griffith shines as the kid who is starting to find himself. One of the flaws of the film is some of its dialogue is a bit on the cheesy side with a few cliches that are hit too hard on the nose. But it never detracts from the overall viewing experience. I really loved seeing the 1980s set design. From the old school television sets to the ‘Star Wars‘ and ‘E.T.‘ posters on the walls, and even the characters watching ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind‘. It really brought me back to my childhood. ‘Labor Day‘ won’t fascinate everyone, but if you give it a chance, I’m sure you’ll walk away satisfied.
And don’t forget to watch my interview with writer Joyce Maynard and actor Gattlin Griffith by CLICKING HERE.
– Bryan Kluger