Labor Day


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Labor Day

Written & Directed by: Jason Reitman
Cast: Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Tobey Maguire

Labor Day is a labor to watch, laborious, protracted, and an almost complete time suck. I’m tremendously appalled that a director of Jason Reitman’s stature would produce what amounts to cinematic toilet paper. The only saving graces to this, least I say film, are the vague observations it makes about the nature of family, the allure of a father image, and the necessity of human touch. And believe me, even that’s stretching it.

What appears to be a chilling ‘home invasion thriller’ quickly descends into a bad Nicholas Sparks novel, but without the heart he endows his work with. Here’s the storyline:

Set in small town New England, Labor Day struggles to be a story of love, passion, and betrayal as viewed through the eyes of a teenage boy. Looking back on the events in his life at age 13, Henry (Narration by Toby Maguire) muses on the time he lived alone with his reclusive divorced mother (Winslet) and the pivotal moment when a stranger changed the course of their lives. It is the end of summer and the start of the Labor Day weekend. Henry and his mother take their once weekly excursion to the market and encounter an injured man (Brolin) who asks for refuge in their home. Over the intervening four holiday days, they’re sort of taken ‘hostage’ by this man, an escaped convict, who ultimately charms the mother and wins over the boy.

To say we’ve seen this all before is to insult the films we would compare it to. There’s no denying that Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin are a very compelling pair, they are good actors both, but even their appeal and chemistry can’t quite rescue Labor Day from the insipid melodrama it becomes. However, to their credit we really do want to see their characters find happiness together. Tobey Maguire’s narration is so superficial it’s almost laughable (not his fault, it’s the script), and the flashbacks to the past are so predictable and unnecessary they slow the already staid action to a snail’s pace.

I think the fault here lies with Jason Reitman, he’s just to damn good to sink to the level of lightweight melodramatic escapism. Why do it when he’s so good at giving us subversive dramedies about disenfranchised and disconnected individuals (Up in the Air, Juno, Thank You for Smoking)? This direction he’s taken is off his usual mark, perhaps that’s why this film seems so disjointed. He’s created a piece of sentimental craptrap.

My take, stay away. Don’t spend your time or money on this film. There are better movies to catch up on that you’ve probably not seen yet. Or better yet, if you really want good melodrama, re-watch The Notebook.



One Response to “Labor Day”

  1. H-Man Says:

    Damn it, being that Jason Reitman is one of the more promising filmmakers working today, I really had hopes for this one.

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