This was a decent movie. In most instances that would be enough to have the film considered a success, but when you are talking about a film directed by Jason Reitman (Up in the Air, Juno) and starring Kate Winslet (The Reader, Titanic) then it doesn’t quite cut the mustard. Romantic dramas are tricky things and when you try to mesh that genre with coming of age then you have a lot of balls to keep in the air at once. Unfortunately this is probably Jason Reitman’s first misstep as a director with a film that reminded me of something adapted from a Nicholas Sparks novel.
It is the Labor Day holiday weekend. The last weekend before kids have to return to school. The last weekend of freedom. Turns out to not as free as Henry (Gattlin Griffin – Changeling, Green Lantern) and Adele (Kate Winslet) hoped.
Henry is preparing to go into grade 7 and is undergoing some of the normal physical changes brought on by puberty. Girls are become interesting to him and invading his dreams. Though he is young Henry has had to grow up quite quickly as his mom and dad (Clark Gregg – The Avengers, Thor) have divorced and Adele is not handling it very well. Adele has become depressed and reclusive verging on agoraphobic. This has left Henry alone a lot and worrying about things he shouldn’t at his age.
On a shopping excursion because he needs clothes that fit for school, Henry runs into a man at the store. He is not your average man and that was obvious to Henry once he notices that there is blood on his shirt. The guy had just escaped from custody and announces to Henry and Adele that he will be hiding out at their house until morning. Well, morning becomes the whole weekend and after getting to know Frank (Josh Brolin – Men in Black 3, Milk) Adele and Henry never want him to leave.
The story is basically about finding love in an unexpected place. Love coming to people who had given up on it which is a highly watchable idea…or so you would think. There were just a few things that were a little off here and that brought the level of the film down.
Most films are based on implausible stories. As a filmgoer you just overlook that in order to immerse yourself into what is going on. As much as I tried to do that with Labor Day I couldn’t. It was just so improbable I couldn’t get past it. That plus the fact that it was overly sentimental in spots really dragged what had the potential to be an interesting story down.
Despite the problems I have with the film there were several strong aspects. First, the film looks great. The cinematography and camera work are both wonderful. There is almost a dreamlike look to much of the film really allowing you to believe that the story is being told by an adult Henry. Most of the credit for making this film watchable has to go to the three main actors. Winslet, Brolin and they young Gattlin Griffin all turns in strong performances in difficult roles.
-End of Summer: Making Labor Day