SYNOPSIS: LABOR DAY centers on 13-year-old Henry Wheeler, who struggles to be the man of his house and care for his reclusive mother Adele while confronting all the pangs of adolescence. On a back-to-school shopping trip, Henry and his mother encounter Frank Chambers, a man both intimidating and clearly in need of help, who convinces them to take him into their home and later is revealed to be an escaped convict. The events of this long Labor Day weekend will shape them for the rest of their lives.
REVIEW: Adapted from a novel by Joyce Maynard, Labor Day unfolds as a Stockholm-syndrome drama over the steamy summer of 1987. Directed by Jason Reitman (Juno, 2007), the film tries to manufacture some suspense, some sense of psychological thrills and an element of romance.
Nevertheless, this latest Reitman film overflows with much carefully unraveled details; all of which are a little too elegant to feel entirely genuine (i.e. the peach-pie baking scene), and yet it’s impossible to fault him for his efforts. This is beside the point of the underlying premise, of course, which is somewhat troubling in my opinion: that a misunderstood killer is just the father/lover that this broken family needs to feel whole again. Yet, one has to respect this director for tackling a project with such a major fundamental hurdle.
In a sorta’ nostalgic manner, this flick reminds me of J.J. Abrams’ “Super 8,” except that the characters aren’t junior filmmakers but up-and-coming pie-bakers, and rather than dealing with aliens, they have a hostage crisis to contend with.
In the end though, Labor Day never comes anywhere close to developing into the sexy Stockholm-syndrome drama it wants to be. It's just somewhat a pseudo-romantic, pseudo-suspenseful and pseudo-thrilling drama that plays out quite slowly nearing the tipping point in to the realm of boredom (which it never reaches). But I will say this: As ridiculous as its premise is, the acting and filming style is quite noteworthy. And “Adele” (Kate Winslet’s character) has a hunger for affection that would resonate with audiences, and could emerge as a powerful, yet implausible, romance.
Hollywood movies like this tend to make the actors look good; however, in this case it seems that the caliber of casting in this story is really what makes this movie worthwhile. Still, it is a DVD date night or pay-per-view movie by most standards. It’s certainly too complex as a 111 minute drama to truly enjoy in theaters. Three out of five stars is my being overly generous due to the oddity of the story and efforts of all involved, to bring it to life.
By Movi-Man Stan
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