The 400 Word Review: Labor Day
By Sean Collier
February 3, 2014
That Labor Day comes from director Jason Reitman, who helmed such recent gems as Young Adult, Up in the Air, Juno and Thank You For Smoking, is shocking. Not that it’s not masterfully crafted and beautifully shot; it is.
It’s finely performed, too, with Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin in the lead roles, alongside young performer Gattlin Griffith and a supporting cast that features Clark Gregg and Tobey Maguire, among others. It’s finely paced. It has a moving score. The production and art departments, capturing both the haze of late summer New England and the late-’80s era, shine.
All involved did a commendable job with Labor Day. And they all seem to have completely missed a crucial point: the premise of the film and the very foundation of its story are off-the-wall insane, and indisputably offensive.
Adele (Winslet) has fallen apart after a divorce, and is now a relative shut-in, shaking and stammering her way through life. For some reason, she retains custody of her preteen son Henry (Griffith); he willingly and statedly serves as a surrogate husband, in a subplot that never admits its basic creepiness.
On Adele’s monthly shopping trip, Henry is approached by Frank (Brolin), bloody and desperate; he politely asks for a ride, then makes it clear that he’s not asking. He demands to be taken to their home, where he explains that he’s an escaped convict in the middle of a long sentence for murder.
Frank is charming, fixing up the house and baking a peach pie (seriously). Logic would dictate, however, that no amount of baked goods could get Adele to overlook the fact that she’s being held hostage by a fugitive and a murderer. But — and this is where things get crazy — in less than 24 hours, Adele falls in love with Frank and invites him to bed.
Yes. This is a love story about a murderous kidnapper and his victim. And that’s just the setup.
It barely warrants pointing out misogyny so blatant, but I will anyway: Labor Day is a film that presumes that a woman will go to pieces without a man in the house. It is so solid in this conviction that its lead character shacks up with the first man to darken her doorframe, even if he’s tying her up and completely capable of killing her and her son, peach pie be damned.
What the hell.
My Rating: 4/10
Official Rating from CriticsChoice.com: 75/100
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark