Labor Day

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1987, Adele Wheeler (Kate Winslet) is a depressed single mom who lives in a rural home with her 13-year-old son, Henry (Gattlin Griffith). While they are clothes shopping, a bloody man approaches Henry and makes them take him home to look after him. The man is revealed to be Frank Chambers (Josh Brolin), a convict who is wanted by the local police after breaking out of jail. Through flashbacks, it is revealed that Frank is a Vietnam veteran who returned home and married his pregnant girlfriend, Mandy (Maika Monroe), who soon gave birth. A year after the baby’s birth, Frank and Mandy had a fight, where she unintentionally revealed that he isn’t the baby’s father. During the fight, he accidentally pushed her against a radiator, resulting in her death. Simultaneously, the baby drowned and Frank was sent to jail for Mandy’s murder.

Adele and Frank fall in love and plan to go to Canada with Henry. They begin packing the house and cleaning on Labor Day. Meanwhile, Henry develops a friendship with a mature, but manipulative girl named Eleanor (Brighid Fleming), and goes to see her one more time before they leave. She manipulates him into thinking Adele and Frank are going to abandon him and he accidentally reveals Frank’s past. The morning they are going to leave, Henry takes a note to his father’s house and leaves it in his mailbox. While he is walking home, a policeman (James van der Beek) offers to drive him home, and Henry has no choice but to accept. The policeman is suspicious of the packed car and nearly-empty house, but eventually leaves. Adele goes to the bank to get all the money out of her account, and while she is gone the neighbor comes over to give Adele some cinnamon rolls, and speaks to Frank. She is suspicious of who he may be. Henry’s father finds the note he left, and calls the house wondering what is going on. Before Adele, Frank, and Henry can escape, the police arrive and arrest him. He ties Henry and Adele up before he goes out to surrender, so that they won’t be charged with harboring a fugitive. It is not revealed who called the police to report Frank’s presence at the house.

Years later, adult Henry (Tobey Maguire) has become a successful baker and is contacted by Frank, who is getting out of jail. Henry tells him that his mother is still single, and Adele meets Frank at the prison upon his release


You know, they always say don’t let a stranger in your car and for kids not to talk to strangers, right? Well, Labor Day is going to make housewives rethink that and just go out picking up random guys that look like convicts, I think, if they haven’t started already.

What is this about?

What begins as a short ride turns into a life-changing event for divorced single mother Adele Wheeler and her 13-year-old son, Henry, when they give a lift to a bloodied man on a fateful Labor Day weekend.

What did I like?

Simple. Lady gets divorced. Lady goes into seclusion and depression. Lady meets escape convict in supermarket, brings him home and they fall in love as he is hiding out. See, nothing complicated about that plot, is there? Sometimes it is best to just strip things back to the bare bones, rather than making things so deep and complicated that the audience is lost and confused. There is an adage that was taught to me in junior high, K.I.S.S. No, not the band, but Keep It Simple Stupid. More than a few films would benefit from following this little nugget of knowledge.

Not a bad guy. Josh Brolin’s character is actually not a bad guy. He’s in jail for an accidental murder. For some reason, I feel sympathy for prisoners. Think about it, we put tax evaders, shoplifters, and people who get caught pirating movies and music in the same prison as hardened thieves, murderers, rapists, etc. What kind of sense does that make? Yes, there are a few bad guys, but I would wager that there are guys like Brolin’s character than not. It is a different take on the escape convict to have one that is guilty of his crime, but not a bad guy who wants to kill everyone who looks at him funny.

Dad is around. So many times when couples are divorced in movies, depending on the story, the father is usually a mean, violent drunk, or not around. Another thing that this film does right is let the father come around. Now, the guy isn’t in the film much, because he isn’t the focus of the film, neither is the kid, really, but the fact that they make sure to let the audience know that Clark Gregg’s character isn’t some deadbeat dad, is a plus in my book. Although, I have to wonder who in their right mind would leave Kate Winslet?!?

What didn’t I like?

Frumpy Kate. I’ve been in love with Kate Winslet ever since I first saw her in Titanic. Most of the stuff she makes is not my cup of tea, but I can usually find a scene or two that I like, if you know what I mean. None of those kind of scenes are in this, though, but that’s now what I have a problem with. My issue is that, while it is necessary for this character, there was really no reason for Kate to look all greasy and frumpy. She reminded me of the sister of this girl I once dated. The only thing missing was the 8 kids and innumerable animals running around the house. OF course, she was divorced, too, so that may just be something divorcee’s go through. Who knows? I know that I just wasn’t a fan of the look. At some point during the picture, they could have dolled her up at least once!

Spider no more. Tobey Maguire handles narration and appears in the last scenes as the grown-up version of the kid we watch for most of the film. Tobey is a good enough actor, and I could see the kid growing up into him, but his narration just didn’t work for me. There is something about his voice that doesn’t work in narration format. I had the same problems with the Raimi Spider-Man films (which I will still take over these new ones we have, but that’s a topic for another day).

Want some pancakes with that sap? As a romantic drama, one goes into this expecting a certain amount of sap, but good gravy! There was enough sap in here to supply IHOP with syrup for a decade or more! A sappy love story is what you expect when you watch this, and the way Brolin and Winslet fall for each other is cliché, but sweet. I just wish it wasn’t so saccharine. I can’t pinpoint what it was that made it so, just know that you will feel sticky after watching…unless you’re a female, then you’ll just want get all cuddly and whatnot.

I’m not really sure why Labor Day wasn’t released over Labor Day weekend, other than the fact it wasn’t going to be a big hit on the last official summer weekend. Still, the marketing pretty much wrote itself, but oh well. This is a film that is made for the lonely romantics out there. Everyone else who watches is basically just watching some pictures move. Do I recommend this? Not really, I mean, as the sum of its parts, it is ok, but nothing spectacular. Watch, if you must!

3 out of 5 stars


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