Labor Day is the most unique of premises for a romance. It's not quite a Stockholm Syndrome idea. Yet it is kind of in that ballpark. But in the hands of Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air), it elevates the most bizarre of romantic tales into a pretty compelling movie.
Kate Winslet is Adele, who is raising her son solo in a small New Hampshire town. The teen (Henry, played by Gattlin Griffith) is our narrator and establishes that he is there for his troubled mom as much as he can be. But at the end of the day, she is lonely. Henry only sees his father (The Avengers star Clark Gregg) when they go to dinner on Sunday nights.
Adele is depressed and rightfully so. She was full of life, but after a series of miscarriages and her husband running off with his secretary to start a new family, she has been filled with sadness for years. That is, until Josh Brolin’s Frank forces his way into her and Henry’s life.
Frank is an escaped convict. He meets Henry and his mom in a Pricemart and essentially takes them hostage. They go back to their home where Frank needs medical attention and a place to lay low, until he can run off into the night towards the nearby train tracks and be whisked away.
See, Frank went to jail for murder years prior and over the course of the movie, through flashbacks, Reitman does explain that it is complicated. But, still at the end of the day, we cannot get over the fact that this man did kill someone. It is a serious challenge to get your audience to pull for Frank and Adele to fall in love. But, somehow, they do, and we want them to. It speaks to the power of Reitman as a filmmaker and frankly as a writer. He penned the screenplay, based on the popular book by Joyce Maynard.
Told you it was a tricky endeavor to find romance where one would think none should exist!
There is also the supreme talent of Reitman’s leads. From that first Labor Day trailer, one could tell that Winslet and Brolin had chemistry. And each has such power to emit emotion, regardless of the role, that given something as meaty and challenging as the effort to make an escaped convict and a lonely single mother fall in love… they rise to the challenge.
The title of the movie comes from the fact that it takes place during the titular holiday weekend. Reitman plots out his story in a matter of days, beginning each new day by telling us in many ways, that the clock is ticking. When Adele and Henry ask Frank to stay until his wounds have healed, we actually believe that the father figure that has been missing from this family could be filled by Frank. It is truly amazing how the audience can not only believe that this could happen, but that we pull for it to succeed.
Our Labor Day review finds that much of the success of the movie lies in Winslet’s hands. The woman who became a household name because of her work in one of the best romances of all time (watch Titanic online now and see what we mean!) seems to have the power to get the audience to pull for her character to find happiness -- regardless of her suitor’s moral compass.