Labor Day (2014)
Depressed single mom Adele and her son Henry offer a wounded, fearsome man a ride. As police search town for the escaped convict, the mother and son gradually learn his true story as their options become increasingly limited.
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Labor Day Theatrical Review
Finally making its way into many theaters after a soft opening in December, Labor Day adds some drama to the weekend. The film features some good acting, able direction and a story that intrigues, but gets hung up in reality issues. If you accept the story as played out you will enjoy it, otherwise the box of tissues you bring will be for naught.
The film centers on a small town in New England in 1987 played out from the perspective of a teen, that now older, looks back on a fateful time in his life. It's Labor Day weekend and Adele (Kate Winslet) realizes with school opening soon she needs to get her son Henry (Gattlin Griffith) new clothes to replace the ones that he's grown out. Adele has been divorced for some time, losing her husband to his secretary after a series of miscarriages following the birth of Henry. She has rarely left the house blaming herself for the separation and wanting to avoid the small town gossip.
On this day while in the local department store Frank (Josh Brolin) approaches Henry and asks him for help. He's bleeding and on the run wanting a ride out of town. Coercing the boy and Adele they take him to their home where he explains his predicament involving his escape from prison. During the course of his stay, all three of their lives get entangled as they rise from a depressive and mundane existence to one of hope and optimism.
Intrinsic to the story is an odd romance that develops when Adele realizes that she still has some worth and attractiveness. Screenwriter and director Jason Reitman introduces his characters quickly, but keeps the lid on their problems that are slowly exposed as the film progresses. It's a good tool for some films, but with this script it challenges the viewer to constantly reflect on what they have already seen in order to understand the reasoning for each of their motives and decisions. While the film becomes complicated at first, the reveals help the romance angle take control of the inevitable final act.
The iconic acting by the main cast keeps the film from losing its grip on the nearly inconceivable plot. Mesmerizing, Winslet turns on the charisma that has made her a star showing Adele's slow progression from depression to hopefulness. Having lost her hold on life after a downward spiral, her only crutch is Henry (Griffith gives a genuine performance) who tends her needs and treats her like a queen. With attention from Frank Adele starts to come out of her impasse and Winslet realistically handles her escape from her cocoon.
However Reitman doesn't do as good a job with Brolin. Here he makes him more of a softy than a hardened man who's been knocked around by the system because of the mishandling his case. His character seems flawed from the start where we find Frank being a nice guy, even in the throes of running from the police. Not nervous or panicking, he wins over Henry very quickly and without hesitation he moves on to Adele. When he arrives at their house he becomes a ‘husband and father figure' to the two with hardly any resistance by either Henry or Adele.
Labor Day has been rated PG-13 for thematic material, brief violence and sexuality. Be cautious when deciding to allow immature children see the film as it does have some scenes that may be inappropriate for juveniles.
FINAL ANALYSIS: A film with a different kind of romance. (C)
-- John Delia
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