LABOR DAY review by Ronnie Malik – Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet find an unlikely connection

LABOR DAY review by Ronnie Malik – Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet find an unlikely connection



Director: Jason Reitman

Cast: Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Tobey Maguire, Gattlin Griffith, Clark Gregg, Maika Monroe, James Van Der Beek, Brooke Smith, Brighid Flemming

Rating: B

Films like Ghost, The Notebook, Dear John, Titanic, Love Story, and the classic masterpiece Casablanca all have gone down in history as some of the more memorable tear-jerking movies that many love to watch over and over again. Director Jason Reitman is breathing life into Labor Day, the 2009 novel written by Joyce Maynard. Some of Reitman’s films include Juno, Up in the Air, and Young Adult. He brings to the big screen funny and heartwarming stories that make us sigh and bring us a smile. In the film adaptation of Labor Day, Reitman gets a magical trio in Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, and newcomer Gattlin Griffith to play emotionally damaged characters searching for love under strange and unusual circumstances. Will the pieces in Labor Day come together making it another love story favorite for moviegoers?

Adele (Kate Winslet) is a messy and disheveled looking but beautiful single mother living with her son Henry (Gattlin Griffith) in their modest little house in small town America. Shaken by miscarriages and the aftermath of divorce, the once vibrant and passionate Adele, now lives as a depressed recluse that never leaves her house unless she needs food, clothing or other supplies. It is Henry who takes on the role of her companion trying hard to fulfill his mother’s needs and aiding her in getting out of the house on occasion to face the public eye.

On a day when Adele and Henry make it to the local store to get food and clothing, Henry is approached by Frank (Josh Brolin). With blood seeping out of his shirt, the tall handsome imposing stranger puts a hand on Henry’s neck, leads him to his mother, and asks for a ride and a place to stay. Fearful that he may hurt her son and also unable to resist his charm, Adele agrees to take Frank back to her place and what should have been a one night stay turns into a five day interaction between the three strangers. Adele and Henry discover that Frank got his injuries while escaping from jail where he had been sentenced to 18 years in prison for murder. Frank simply tells them that there is another side to the story and both mother and son, although fearful, don’t panic at the thought of harboring a fugitive.

While hiding out at Adele’s, Frank fixes things around her house, repairs the car, plays ball with Henry, and the icing on the cake is that he is a fabulous cook. Frank is ideal husband/father material if it were not the fact that he is an escaped convict. Over the course of just a few days the trio bond together and love manages to grow as they unknowingly and secretly form a family away from prying eyes.

We start to get insight into what haunts both Adele and Frank with flashbacks revealing what tortures and motivates each of these complex characters. Meanwhile, Henry is making discoveries of his own as he experiences changes in his emotions with the onset of puberty, watching his mother fall in love, and dealing with the fears of being unwanted by the adults in his life.

The film does a beautiful job showing how simple things, such as a man playing catch with a boy, can create powerful bonds between people who were strangers just a few days before.

One of the ultimate scenes Labor Day will be famous for is a sensual and tantalizing pie making project sequence that not only forces three people to interact and connect but also awakens a strong overpowering attraction between a man and woman that will ultimately lead to love. Who would think that a little thing like cooking pie could do all that? Audiences watching this might just find themselves breathing a little harder in anticipation of what might just come next. There are many small incidences of tenderness throughout the movie such as a touch, a glance, or a smile that are actually big powerful moments impacting the overall theme of the piece.

The flashbacks are a huge weak link in Labor Day. Meant to clarify and show us what motivates Adele and Frank, the flashbacks are often foggy and confusing. The story is narrated by Tobey Maguire as the adult Henry. The narration often feels long, drawn out, and really not necessary to the storyline. But, once you get past the sloppily done flashbacks and annoying narration, you can’t help but notice how good the cast did in portraying the emotionally troubled threesome. Kate Winslet is wonderful in her role playing a nervously anxious woman starved for love and attention that blossoms under gaze of her romantic captor. Josh Brolin has great screen presence as the brooding mysterious felon that will sacrifice himself all in the name of love. Gattlin Griffith, with his soulful eyes, does an amazing job playing a young boy fearful of abandonment and craving a father’s love. This kid is worth keeping an eye on, because if Hollywood is smart it will recognize his potential and cast him in other roles, giving him an opportunity to grow into a really strong actor. The chemistry between the three stars, especially Winslet and Brolin, make it feel like the book must have been written for them because they are so perfectly cast in this movie.

Labor Day is an intimate, sensual story that slowly moves along revealing how love can change a person for the better. This film will bring out a sigh, a smile, and a sniffle or two with a heartwarming ending that will make you say “well that was nice.”

LABOR DAY is now playing everywhere

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