Labor Day is a lofty romance for all
Smart, simple movie the perfect note for Valentine's Day
Saturday, Feb 01, 2014 06:00 am
Starring Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Gattlin Griffith, Clark Gregg, James van der Beek, J.K. Simmons and Tobey Maguire
Written and directed by Jason Reitman
See www.albertafilmratings.ca for more information.
Runtime: 111 minutes
Now playing at Cineplex Odeon North Edmonton and Scotiabank Theatre
So many North American movies are about flash and bang special effects, glossy marketing campaigns and ultimate banality. The best way to make back a production buck is to cater to the most common of the common denominators.
I’m so thankful that Jason Reitman isn’t like that.
The astute (and Canadian) director – he of indie darlings Thank You For Smoking and Juno – has another quirky, intelligent and thoughtful drama to impart upon the movie-going public. This time, it’s a very low-key and subdued story of a single mother, her 13-year-old son and the escaped convict that they both fell in love with.
Such is the story of Labor Day, the film based on the book by Joyce Maynard. It tells an interesting tale about Adele (played by Kate Winslet) and her son Henry (Gatling Griffith). She is the divorcée of Gerald (Clark Gregg), but not willingly so. The broken family has left her a broken person who has trouble even leaving the house.
So severe is her problem that she relies on Henry to take care of much of the usual household and husbandly duties – he tends to the banking, takes care of the groceries, even prepares coffee for her first thing in the morning before she wakes up.
To say that this is dysfunctional is charitable. In the voiceover dialogue, we even learn that he was trying to be a kind of surrogate husband to his disheveled, distant mother.
That is, of course, until one fateful day when they go to a department store and Henry gets accosted – gently, mind – by Frank (Josh Bolin), who appears injured with a limp and a bleeding abdominal wound. He requests that the two take him to their house.
In every other respect, we would call this kidnapping. Frank, as it turns out, is an escaped murderer. In this case, he’s a killer with a heart of gold. There doesn’t seem to be an evil bone in his body. To be blunt, he’s the perfect husband and father, save for the fact that he’s a convicted felon.
Over the course of the Labour Day weekend, the three get to know each other better and, oh yes, Frank and Adele become quite close. Things change quickly over those few days and a commitment is struck to live together happily ever after.
Save your groans. This is a tale of high romance and I am not kidding you. Frank is exactly what Adele and Henry need. He fixes things around the house, teaches the young lad how to throw a baseball properly and is otherwise considerate and tender. He cooks like no one else but can still wax the floor and change a tire.
In the ideal world, we can see how easily and wonderfully they would all live together.
Labor Day isn’t about the ideal world. It’s about the longing for the ideal. It’s more of a Terrence Malice tone poem about the need for human connection beyond the scope of any societal restriction, like say a prison sentence. We are meant to feel this movie with a troubled ache in our hearts for all the losses that we’ve suffered, all the emotional hurts in our relationships, all the pains that come out of the weird fumbling interactions we have with the people we care about.
It’s very much an under-the-radar affair but it’s very much worth it. This is the Valentine’s Day movie that should satisfy both the men and the women this year. It is very romantic with its knight in slightly grey armour who swoops in to save the damsel in distress but that knight also appeals to those who idealize father figures. Frank is both and it’s impossible not to love him, even a little bit.
Whether or not this is just a case of Stockholm Syndrome gone far awry, Labor Day is a smart movie that excels in its tale of love in reductive simplicity. Take away all the armour that people have in their personae, the one question remains: how do they make you feel?
As a side note, it’s pretty much a perfectly-made movie too, with intelligent but restrained dialogue, spot-on casting and director Reitman’s deft hand once again demonstrating that audiences don’t need to be hit on the head with what movies are trying to say. Sometimes a tap is enough.