Release date: January 31, 2014
Written and Directed by: Jason Reitman
Starring: Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Gattlin Griffith, and Clark Gregg
Official website: Facebook.com/LaborDayMovie
Well. This is awkward. On the surface, “Labor Day” is about a 13 year-old boy who lives with his reclusive mother, who come across an escaped convict on a shopping trip with his mother. The convict then forces them to take him back to their home, so he can figure out a way to skip town without the law noticing. Almost has the set up for a really interesting thriller. Keep reading.
Below the surface, there is a lot more going on in this drama from writer and director Jason Reitman, who has built a solid filmography of movies fueled by richly deep characterizations and engrossing and relatable human drama. Working from a novel from Joyce Maynard, “Labor Day” manages to creep into the deep recesses of the fantasies that seem more palpable in a Lifetime movie.
Kate Winslet plays Adele, the divorced, depressed and reclusive mother of 13 y.o. Henry (Gattlin Griffith), whose only real interaction with members of the opposite sex is with his mother. When they come across Frank the convict (Josh Brolin), who may or may not be guilty depending on whose side of the story you want to believe, little Henry is automatically drawn to him, and Adele, despite her obvious fear for hers and Henry’s safety, is oddly attracted to him.
And why not? The guy fixes stuff around the house that’s been needin’ fixed for years — well ever since Adele’s husband and Henry’s father (Clark Gregg) left and started another family. Frank is every woman’s dream. He cleans. He plays catch with Henry. He cooks — and even feeds Adele at one point during the bondage session of the escaped convict fantasy. Then there is the pie scene. Get ready for this one. Making a pie with a 13 year-old has never been so oddly and disturbingly sexual. (P.S. You can get the recipe for Joyce Maynard’s famous Apple Pie here)
The entire movie is filled with this weird sexual tension as Adele, clearing missing the presence of a man in her life, and not just to do chores. She is clearly in need of some personal attention. But at the same time, poor Henry is just beginning to feel sexual feelings and he’s caught up in this house with a sex deprived mother, and his infatuation with a girl in his class. All these feelings and images seem to blend together with a lot of brow raising and chuckle inducing scenes that probably aren’t meant to be as funny as they are.
Jason Reitman has made better movies. But that’s not to say this is a bad movie. It’s not great. Maybe not even good. But it’s well acted, even if the characters seem like they are out of some bizarre Stockholm Syndrome inspired sexual fantasy. If anything, it’s memorable and certainly entertaining, even if it is completely and utterly ridiculous.
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