Have you ever wondered what a theatrical release of a Lifetime movie would be like? Me neither. But, now I know. Labor Day follows Adele (Kate Winslet) and her son Henry (Gattlin Griffith) over the long weekend in 1987. Adele is basically a recluse. Her husband Gerald (Clark Gregg) left her for his secretary, leaving Henry as her keeper. We get all of this from a voiceover by older Henry (Tobey Maguire).
One morning, Henry discovers that he has outgrown his pants. So, off he and Adele go to the local store to buy new ones. While there, Frank (Josh Brolin) approaches Henry and “asks” for a lift. It turns out he is an escaped convict. He jumped out of a second-floor hospital window after his appendectomy. Back at Adele’s house, Frank shows he is not such a bad guy and makes chili. He plans to wait out the night, and leave for the train tracks in the morning. The next morning comes, but no trains due to the holiday. So, he stays with Adele and Henry and becomes a handyman fixing things, including Adele’s heart. BLAH!
Throughout this terrible story, there is a storyline featuring the backstory of Young Frank (Tom Lipinski) and his wife Mandy (Maika Monroe). We learn why Frank is in jail. Also strung throughout is some history about Adele and Gerald. The scene that finally explains what happened to their marriage is the only scene worth a shit in this melodramatic poopfest.
Labor Day is a book by Joyce Maynard. I am sure that, as a book, this story works. As a film, however, it is a mess. Jason Reitman’s screenplay cannot decide on a tone. See the two vastly different posters they used. The first is a thriller looking one with Brolin holding Winslet in a death grip. The other, they are making lovey-dovey faces at each other. I think it is supposed to be a romantic drama, but there is too much outright comedy in it. This causes huge disconnects in the film. Jason Reitman’s screenplay offers terrible dialog that the seasoned actors are forced to try and deliver without laughing at each other.
Other aspects of the film make no sense to me. The movie starts with a text on screen “1987.” Then, the opening events happen with Frank going home with Adele and Henry. The next morning (?), text on screen says “FRIDAY.” Are we to assume then that everything we just witnessed happened on Thursday? SATURDAY, SUNDAY, and MONDAY follow, but then on Tuesday, there is no text. Why not? Then, during the crappy, rushed, happily-ever-after ending, there is one scene where Henry, now played by Dylan Minnette, has a conversation with Gerald. ONE SCENE! Why not use Gattlin or Tobey? Why cast this guy for one scene? Finally, as the sappy ending is rolling out, Tobey Maguire finally makes his on screen appearance, but HE HAS NO LINES!
I expect better from the man behind Thank You for Smoking, Juno and Up in the Air. All of these received some awards attention. As I left the theater, thoroughly bored, I noticed so many older (post 55) women drying their eyes. I swallowed a laugh. The neat and tidy ending is by far the worst aspect of this 111 minute “drama.” Everything is happily-ever-after. Barf.