When I first saw the trailer for Labor Day, my immediate reaction was [LOUD OBNOXIOUS FART NOISE]. And I wasn’t really planning on seeing it, as you can obviously tell by my LOUD OBNOXIOUS FART NOISE. I mean, what the hell is this? Some fugative is feeding chili to Kate Winslet? So what? But then I decided to give the movie a chance because, first and foremost, I had nothing better to do. But secondly, I like Jason Reitman. Not just as a filmmaker, but I also think he’s a really interesting dude in interviews and publications as well. Plus, Up in the Air is one of my favorite movies of the 2000’s. So, I figure this can’t be the worst thing in the world, right?
Labor Day is about a divorced, single mother (Kate Winslet) who is a wreck after losing her ability to love (I know, I know… But give it a chance) and rarely ever leaves her house. BUT ONE DAY, her and her son (some dorky child actor) run into an escaped convict (Josh Brolin), and he casually threatens them into making them give him lodging until his escape wounds heal. Over the course of five days (LABOR DAY WEEKEND, HENCE THE TITLE [COMPUTER EXPLODES]), the lonely mother starts to fall in love with the guy; and since the story is told from the kid’s perspective (but from the future by Tobey Maguire a la Wonder Years-esk voice over), it’s also about how her son reacts to having a strong male presence living in the house and teaching him about baseball and shit. Pretty much all of the suspense of the film comes from people coming over randomly, and Josh Brolin hiding in the shadows tensely until they leave.
I’m not familiar at all with the source material, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Jason Reitman adapted a Harlequin romance novel into this film. Some frail, lonely woman gets seduced by a burly, muscled-up handyman in a tight white shirt; there’s a constant risk of danger, and she shows him how to dance. To be honest with you, I’d rather see Reitman adapt a novel like this than have to suffer through another Diablo Cody screenplay, so I’m cool with it I guess. And besides, it’s kind of ballsy that he directed a two-hour movie, with A-list talent, about a guy who forces his way into a woman’s house and then changes the oil on her car and teachers her how to make homemade peach pie.
As weird/boring as this movie sounds, there are some redeeming elements. It’s not a great movie, but I actually liked the film overall. It has interesting characters, with *tons* of backstory and character development. And the lingering threat of everything potentially collapsing on itself kept it more entertaining than it could have been. And man, is it a quiet movie. It’s almost impressive how calm everyone talks throughout this whole thing. I’m trying to think of a single moment when anyone raises their voice for any reason, and I don’t think there was one. So you get to see plenty of low-toned, yet frantically subtle acting. And James Van Der Beek plays a cop. Just sayin’.
I could see how people would potentially get turned off by the deliberate slow pacing, though. This movie certainly isn’t fast OR furious. Nor is the story itself even all that remarkable. But much like living with a handsome convict who cleans your house for five days, it just kind of grows on you if you have patience with it. This is the kind of movie that you need to devote 100% of your attention to. If you try to watch it in chunks, or in the background while you do other things, I don’t see how you could possibly enjoy it. But I think it’s definitely worthwhile if you give it a chance. It’s a nice little movie. It doesn’t necessarily do anything fundamentally wrong. Man, the way I’m talking, it’s almost like I have Stockholm Syndrome from being held captive by Labor Day‘s long duration. But I don’t think that’s true… [hangs up large poster of Josh Brolin in a tank top, puts hand over Josh’s heart, daydreams about him vigorously cleaning my kitchen while I eat his homemade cheddar-baked croissants]
7 out of 10