When an injured man, Frank, (Josh Brolin) strongly suggests that Adele (Kate Winslet) and her teenage son Henry (Gattlin Griffith) take him to their home, their lives change forever. As the story of escaped convict, Frank, unfolds, a unique relationship begins to form between the three of them.
Tobey Maguire, Clark Gregg, James Van Der Beek, and J.K. Simmons also appear in this film written and directed by Jason Reitman, adapted from Joyce Maynard‘s novel.
If Nicholas Sparks wrote a story inspired by the Stockholm syndrome phenomenon, this would be it. Frank is an escaped convict doing time for murder. Injured, he forces himself into their home to heal, while essentially keeping Adele and Henry prisoner. A few tender moments and bonding experiences later, over Labor Day weekend, mother and son both seem to have fallen in love with this man.
It’s a little weird and unlikely, and the plodding plot and tedious back-story are littered with strange sexual tensions that don’t fit the tone of the rest of the film. The music, as melodramatic as the plot, hammers along slowly and incessantly through many heavy-handed bits of scenery. Building more or less predictably, though slowly, the sleepy and contrived story thankfully turns a corner as it nears the home stretch.
Finally deciding to mostly explain Frank’s past to us after montages of out of context memory clips – this is not Memento – things finally congeal as the pace quickens. Something strange happens at this moment, the final lap before the end of this drawn out movie. We care about these characters. Yes, their situation still seems strange and exceedingly unlikely, but these characters who are all starved for love in one way or another manage to become more than they would have been with lesser talent bringing them to live. Through no real fault of the script, we actually feel something.
Despite being as unlikely as the Fast Six physics, the final third and ending do manage to redeem the film a bit. It’s at this point that the characters finally show a shred of personality, even eliciting laughter from the audience more than once. Despite what common sense will tell you, you will probably also feel some feelings as the tension mounts, leading to an ending that will leave half the audience with some form of ocular dampness.
Trying to combine romance with a psychological thriller was probably not the best idea in the world and most of it doesn’t work. Somewhat redeeming itself in the final act, Labor Day still doesn’t get a pass on the abysmal first act or two.
Mrs. Hamster says:
“It was beautiful. Great movie.”
My rating: Two out of five hats
Labor Day strolls into 2,584 theaters, January 31