Emotional drama “Labor Day” leaves viewers feeling unsatisfied

New Jason Reitman movie doesn’t make a dent in the box office


The acting by Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin and youngster Gattlin Griffith were one of the very few positives in the new movie “Labor Day.” For a movie that didn’t have many previous advertisements, I was expecting an underrated drama from the wonderful director Jason Reitman (“Juno”). What I experienced was much different. Even on opening weekend, there were very few people in the theater, with pockets of older women every few rows. My friend and I were the youngest in the theater by at least 20 years.

“Labor Day” takes place in the 1980s somewhere near the midwest and focuses on a single mother played by Winslet, and her 12 year old son, played by Griffith. The mother, Adele, who is nearly an agoraphobic, has her son, Henry, take care of her. Through a scary experience to the grocery store, Brolin playing Frank, a wanted criminal, threatens the mother and son and forces them to bring him back to their house. Throughout the whole middle of the movie, Frank,  acts as a simultaneous kidnapper and a father figure to Henry. Frank then falls in love with Adele and the “new family” plans to flee to Canada. Keep in mind that this happens over the Labor Day week and weekend, happening over a time span of five days.

The whole criminal, new father complex ruined this movie for me. One minute Frank would be tying them up with rope and the next he would be playing a wonderful game of catch with Henry. It was completely bogus. The film featured at least three scenes where they baked together, all while Adele and Frank were being touchy-feely with each other.

Despite the silly plot, “Labor Day” featured good actors. You felt Winslet’s pain even before you found out why she was depressed. Brolin did well playing a tough guy that had to hide in his dark, misunderstood past. The true star of this film was Griffith. He was innocent at first but the film showed his development in understanding parts of the adult world. Somehow he managed to stay a sweet guy even as he became older. Another aspect I liked were the flashbacks, all snippets from Frank and Adele’s lives, although, they were pretty repetitive and vague.

As a whole I give the film “Labor Day” a low B. It had nice intricate elements but it was too hokey and sad, which is a terrible combination. I never cried or laughed. I just left the theater feeling empty, which is the opposite way you are supposed to feel after watching a good movie. Despite the negative things I found, I did like the the summer feel, the 80s time period and the actors.