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Labor Day - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Labor Day
Directing: B+
Acting: B+
Writing: B-
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B+

It would be easy to start off picking apart the plausibility of Labor Day, but there's something to be said for the immediacy of the cinematic experience. Sometimes, the overly analytical and cynical approach to critics is trumped by the willingness to give oneself over to a story, no matter how far fetched.

This story in particular, directed and written by Jason Reitman and based on a novel by Joyce Maynard, has a curiously charismatic tone, even as it navigates some squirm-inducingly uncomfortable moments. It is tone, more than anything, that makes Labor Day worth watching. It takes on a greater significance than any lack of realism, which is minor; as well as some pervasive unevenness in narrative structure.

It's told in the perspective of Henry, played by a stoic yet ridiculously photogenic Gattlin Griffith and narrated by Henry as an adult by Tobey Maguire. He lives alone with his divorced mother, Adele, played by the reliably excellent Kate Winslet. Adele struggles with depression to the point of only leaving the house for supplies once a month. One wonders where she gets the money for that, as well as the shockingly large house she lives in, when she clearly doesn't work. Does her ex-husband (Clark Gregg) pay for all that? In addition to the house he now lives in with a wife and two other children? Okay, we just won't think too much about that. Maybe Dad is loaded.

On one of these monthly outings, Henry finds himself approached at the store by Frank (Josh Brolin), who we soon learn is an escaped convict who jumped out a hospital window before a planned kidney operation. Without being menacing, while technically still being threatening ("Frankly, this has to happen"), he commands Adele to drive him to her house, where he is to lay low until he can continue on with his escape.

Whether Adele exactly comes down with a case of Stockholm syndrome is up for debate. She is characterized, by Henry, as particularly lonely, and with few exceptions, Frank is incredibly tender and thoughtful with her, and she falls quickly in love with him. He is waiting for trains nearby to aide in his escape, which turn out to be infrequent -- indeed, oddly, apparently completely absent -- due to it being Labor Day weekend.

Therein lies the real test of this movie. Plenty of viewers would watch this unfold and think, Seriously? I accepted it. Stranger things happen in reality, so I figure, why not? The actors sell it well; Brolin and Winslet have a more than workably chemistry, and Henry's response to it, in context, is believable.

More importantly, Reitman offers a story that is often almost hypnotic in the telling. It is always subtle, but there is something that is, in the end, comforting about how this story is presented, between the editing, the performances, and the cinematography. A movie is rarely better on the whole than its script is when considered on its own, but Labor Day pulls it off. It rises above its one great imperfection.

Granted, a back story for Adele is revealed to give the movie's title a double meaning (it's not just that it's Labor Day weekend), and that part is borderline schmaltzy. Thus, there is plenty for many viewers to find unforgivable in this movie. I just happened to find myself easily able to forgive, and rather enjoyed the movie as a result.

Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin and Gattlin Griffith have a LABOR DAY weekend to remember.

Overall: B+
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