Release Date: January 31, 2014
Director: Jason Reitman
Writer: Jason Reitman, Joyce Maynard (book)
Cast: Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Gattlin Griffith, Tobey Maguire, Tom Lipinski, Maika Monroe, Clark Gregg, James Van Der Beek, J.K. Simmons, Brooke Smith, Brighid Fleming, Alexie Gilmore, Lucas Hedges, Micah Fowler, Chandra Thomas, Matthes Rauch, Doug Trapp, Kate Geller, Ed Moran, Sam Rush, James Chen, John Kooi
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 111 minutes
By: Paramount Pictures
It’s amazing sometimes how your world can be flipped upside down in such a short amount of time. Especially in the matter of a few days, and in this case Labor Day weekend. One can find true love, the motivation to live again, or the realization of who you really are inside. Can you imagine what events would have to go down for you literally to drop everything you have going on in life? Leaving everyone and everything you love behind to start over. I’m not saying that’s exactly what happened here, you’ll just have to check it out to see, but the story does make you wonder. It’s not a perfect story but a good one that’s quite inspiring. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t find a character I didn’t like. Towards the beginning the story telling was a bit clustered but it all came together in the end. It’s a love story that takes it’s time to blossom, who some may feel it’s unbelievable (me in part), but still may leave you a little warm and fuzzy on the inside. Based on the novel by Joyce Maynard published in 2009, ‘LABOR DAY’ tells the story of Henry Wheeler in his early thirties recounting the events of his Labor Day weekend at thirteen years of age.
If you read any of my reviews you may know I’m not the biggest fan of opening credits. Sometimes it can clock me out of the film and I’m ready for it to end before it begins. Unless it’s done in a way that serves a purpose. Here we have opening credits but with shots of a beautiful quite countryside. It’s a pleasure on the eyes instantly making me want to plan my next vacation from is relaxing tone. We then meet our first character Henry(Gattlin Griffith) and I fell in love with him instantly. The love he has for his depressed mother Adele(Kate Winslet) is unconditional and it’s showcased through a single shot (great directing). As the story moves along Frank(Josh Brolin) intervenes with our main characters. It doesn’t take long to find out who he is, but does take a while to figure out what he’s about. That’s not complaint at all because it boils up the mystery. I’m drawn in intrigued pondering how this will all play out. On one hand we have a convicted murderer blasted all over the news outlets, who has in away kidnapped our main cast. Though on the other hand you feel that he’s a decent man that was in the wrong place at the wrong time. At this point you know some reveal will come to fruition in it’s end, but the questions is how. A minor complaint with the storytelling is how it does come together. Within the first 30 minutes I did lose a track of the timeline. I wasn’t sure how many days/hours had passed and random shots of life out of context literally made me feel the editor dropped the ball.
What’s refreshing is getting to know Frank. He really is a great man that I can imagine most women would love to be with. He’s the typical manly man from all out door tasks, to even cooking up a storm in the kitchen. I was shocked to say the least of his many talents. He seemed like the perfect filler in Adele and Henry’s life at the time. What became frustrating is knowing that Frank is a fugitive in a small town, where no one minds their own damn business. Our main cast knows this but they forgot to give Frank that memo. As cops are continuously riding up and down the streets, going door to door looking for a convicted felon(Frank), Frank thinks it’s a good idea to go outside in the front yard to work on a car, clean leaves out of the gutters, and see if Adele was ripped off by the bundles of firewood she purchased. I was raised better than this but wanted to scream, “GO BACK IN THE HOUSE DUMBASS!!! EVERYONE IS LOOKING FOR YOU!!!”, but I didn’t because I didn’t think he would be able to hear me.
I’m not a parent yet but imagine when raising kids if both parents are present it’s possibly best for one parent to handle a certain duty than the other (If possible I think the mother would be best to tell their daughter about her first period than the father). So now I feel you can relate to my point. So with Adele abandoned by her ex-husband she falls into deep depression. She hasn’t felt the warmth of the opposite sex in quite sometime. So when Frank comes around the flame is rekindled. Now while Adele is back in her glory days without giving too much details, she is breaking down the pleasures of sex that they don’t teach you in the classroom. Some may say this should be a conversation Henry should have with his father, but in absence she does a great job at getting the point across to her son. So as life is being pumped back into Adele (in more ways than one), she using this as a method of teaching her son Henry. I really felt Henry matured after this conversation and was more aware at what emotions her mother was going through. It really strengthens their bond and lets Henry respect his mother even more than he already does.
As the plot develops so does the characters and not just the main cast. As Henry finds new joy in his mother it seems he wants to witness it himself from one of his fellow female classmates. She’s extremely faster than he is emotionally and quite rough around the edges. I found her to be hilarious with every joke she threw at the audience, but her introduction and conclusion to the story was nonexistent. Her character was a necessary one but I can’t get over the fact that two strangers (while going to the same school) will express all of their deepest feelings without the mention of, “Hey my name is_____. What’s yours?” Just imagine preparation for the funniest comedian to perform but then you gave them the wrong address. What a waist?! It wasn’t a big setback but I definitely noticed.
While I have my favorite characters the one I respect the most is Gerald, Henry’s biological father. From the trailers he can be written off as an asshole for what he did, but we all make mistakes. Some just hurt more and are longer lasting than others. We see why Greg made his decision to leave that sent Adele on an emotional cliff dive, and it pains me to think of that reality in the real world. While he can’t go back in time to change the decisions he made, he does step up to the plate eventually as the man he’s supposed to be and displays a gesture most fathers can even begin to comprehend. I will say that too much pride can kill a man and Greg has no problem at adapting to this life lesson. What stood out the most and some may consider it a plot hole, is the audience does find out who Frank really is and why he’s in this predicament. Though the main characters never get that answer or even ask the question. This is beyond frustrating. All the pieces finally come together but the most important question is never asked? That question is how did you get here in this situation. To some it may not matter because their bond at this point was so strong but, and extra line of dialogue or two would’ve sufficed.
There were times I really was at the edge of my seat. I really wanted everything to work out between these characters because I really did care. Sometimes one sentence one speaks will save your life in moments of despair, and it’s quite fulfilling when executed the right way. I felt director Jason Reitman accomplished this and much more with his adaptation of the published book. We get a few cameos from other great actors that I won’t mention here, that have their own special place in the story. At times I thought it was ending then still graced with a little more for the extra icing on top. Realistically this is a love story that bloomed over a few days. I still can’t help to think was it real or was Adele just desperate for human companionship. You’ll have to be the judge on that. Their characters are quite older than I am displaying another level of maturity, so when I’m that old it may be easier to narrow done love. Though it still a great time that I thoroughly enjoyed it.