Labor Day

Labor Day photo starrating-2stars.jpgBack in 2007 Chronicle Books published a paperback entitled Porn for Women. Despite the raunchy sounding title, it was in fact a tongue-in-cheek, PG-rated photo book. The humorous publication featured clean-cut guys washing dishes, doing the laundry, and saying things like “Let me make you some tea and we can talk about it.” Labor Day is kind of pitched to the same audience except that it’s no joke.  It might have been rewritten and worked as a parody, but as a serious romance, it’s just awful. The most stilted fantasy aimed at lonely women since Nights in Rodanthe.

The drama stars Kate Winslet as Adele. Apparently she’s suffering from depression after the breakup of her marriage. She’s extremely forlorn, although her son Henry (Gattlin Griffith) does his best to comfort her. He is sweetness personified even giving her a coupon book offering to do all the chores around the house. I will say that his coming-of-age character makes the most sense. The young actor is quite good. Anyway, while shopping in a discount store one day, the twosome are accosted by Frank (Josh Brolin), an escaped convict with a bleeding wound on his stomach. He forces the two to take him to their home so he can hide out for awhile.

What happens next is too illogical for words. Within seconds of entering the house Adele is making Frank coffee. “Isn’t it against the law to hide a fugitive?“ her son asks.  So Frank gently ties her to a chair to look as if she has been forced contrary to her will. For some reason, he spares the son. Henry watches on nervously. Then Frank whips up his famous chili and spoon-feeds it to Adele, blowing on each bite so it doesn‘t burn her tongue. As the weekend progresses, manly Frank replaces the oil on her car, changes the filter on the furnace, washes and waxes the kitchen floor and even helps her son understand what a ratchet wrench is and how to throw a baseball. Are you kidding me? However the most ridiculous sequence is an extended cooking demonstration in which Frank teaches mother and son how to bake the perfect peach pie. Each brand name ingredient lovingly framed at camera level ostensibly so the audience can go buy the correct ingredients when they make the recipe at home. Adele mixes the peaches with her hands. Then Frank also puts his hands in the mixture and the two affectionately caress one another. First I thought of the pottery scene in Ghost. Then I rolled my eyes so far back I thought I saw my brain.

The plot is simplistic in the extreme. Lonely divorcée falls in love with an escaped prisoner. He’s pretty benign, but the ominous music misleads the viewer into believing something very evil is imminent. I suppose falling for a murderer isn’t ideal. But then there are several groan-inducing flashbacks that awkwardly persuade us to sympathize with Frank in the most horrendously manipulative way possible. Thank You for Smoking, Juno, Up in the Air, Young Adult: I’ve adored every single one of Jason Reitman’s other films. I am flabbergasted this was helmed by the same director. Furthermore, he adapted Joyce Maynard’s novel himself. Regardless of how sappy the source material is, he must accept blame for this script. I kept thinking that at some point in the development of this story there would be a twist or surprise that would explain why such a mentally troubled woman would be so comfortable with a convicted felon in the house. No such luck.

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41 Responses to “Labor Day”

  1. This sounds like a really underwhelming, dumbed-down version of Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!. It also sounds like a movie that just isn’t what Jason Reitman would usually do. I’m so glad I ended up not wasting ten bucks on this. Thank you for keeping me from going out to the theater this weekend as well.

    Envoyé de mon iPhone

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    • I never saw Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! Did they bake pies in that film too? That’s a very important part of this story.

      • LOL. No, it’s basically about a guy who’s just got out of prison eventually falls in love with this woman who he’s been tying to the bed so that she can’t escape. But no, no pies. Not sure Pedro Almodóvar would approve of this movie!

  2. Nice one! As you know I did give it an extra star but do recognize its faults. I really didn’t have a problem with a lot of what you mentioned. I took from it that she was doing what he said because he still made thinly veiled threats towards her son. He didn’t tie him up because they could always say “he is just a kid”. All the handyman stuff filled a void in his life too. The peach pie scene….I have nothing! It’s one of the dopiest scenes I’ve seen in a long time.

    I had bigger issues with how fast this whole romance developed, some o the sappy dialogue latter on, and the underdeveloped puberty struggles that pop up later on. But in the end I did like these characters enough.

    Fun discussion my friend!

  3. GaryLee828 Says:

    It’s only February and you’re already declaring it a top-10 favorite for 2014!? Stop being such a prisoner of the moment! 🙂

    I saw this trailer and wanted to see this – and then a little later they started showing the ads on TV playing Rhianna over the scenes, and it turned me off. Just not a good fit at all. So, I was on-the-fence about it and now this may help me hop over to one side.

    I may regret this, but my hopes have shot up for “Dead or alive, you’re coming with me” coming out next week. I’m looking forward to it. Did you like the original? Kurtwood Smith was truly one of the meanest cinema villains I’ve ever seen. One of the most memorable, as well. I still to this day remember him.

  4. Great, hilarious review. This movie has been taking a beating so far, critically.

  5. This film is underrated. Not great not bad.

  6. Yep, I can tell you had some fun chopping this one down, as did I, as you know already. This movie was utter ridiculousness. I wanted to enjoy myself because Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet together make for an interesting enough pair but in any other circumstances they would have been dynamite. Not to mention, there were more than a few moments in this film (like when Henry explains that he “even took her out on a date”) that made me cringe.

    Labor Day is really a sad movie haha. But your review is great.

  7. Never knew there was a novel called Porn for Women… Thought you might have cleverly renamed Fifty Shades of Grey, but I guess it will have to be tongue-in-cheek with a legitimate name like that!! Great review, though, Mark. Thanks for making me realize that she was being fed chili and not beans – I either forgot or just don’t know my canned goods! A big eye-roller for me might have been when Frank wanted to catch the train and they said “No, stay, you have to let your stitches heal.” I chuckled at first, but then I thought for a moment it was turning into a flick where the kidnapped turn into the kidnappers. That woulda kept me interested!! I guess it wouldn’t be very convincing when Winslet’s hand would be shaking so much she’d probably cut herself… If that happened, it wouldn’t be much more far-fetched than the rest of the film, though, would it? 🙂

  8. This made me chuckle! I might go and see this for the unintentional comedy value, at least I’ll know how to bake pies!

  9. Nice review. I’ve never been very big on Reitman’s work (his movies are enjoyable but forgettable for myself at least) and this looked like a Nicolas Sparks adaptation. I’ll be skipping this.

  10. I was never enthused about this film, it just looks tedious to me. Well your review doesn’t exactly convince me otherwise Mark 🙂

    • I guess just the fact that Kate Winslet was in it intrigued me. She even got a Golden Globe nomination which I should’ve remembered doesn’t really count for much.

  11. wow. this sounds awful

  12. great to know – thanks for the warning!

  13. great and entertaining review mark. just saw this today and agree with your review. i was flabbergasted in general by the story. I can maybe accept the idea of a depressed woman making wrong romantic decisions. but by immediately having the convict give several detailed cooking lessons and then later receiving dancing lessons from her(think it was the cha-cha) just seems out of place for the predicament.

    • Then Frank started making really bad decisions. He should’ve left a long time ago. The fact that he hung around for the whole weekend was stupid. Based on how much work he got done around the house, it actually felt like he had been there for weeks. Then he interacts with the neighbor kid. Utter nonsense.

  14. Ok. This was bad. Was it supposed to be a comedy, because I laughed out loud, a lot. Come on really, It seemed promising from the previews, with great actors. What a bust. 2 stars

  15. “Then I rolled my eyes so far back I thought I saw my brain.”
    BEST (MOVIE) REVIEW LINE EVER! 😆😆😆
    My same reaction when I saw ‘Under The Tuscan CRAP’

    Thanks for the laugh, Mark!

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