Saturday, February 1
REVIEW: Labor Day
Directed by Jason Reitman
1 hour 51 minutes
From Paramount Pictures
and Indian Paintbrush
James Van Der Beek
I admit I went to see this because Kate and Josh were the leads and I like them both. I have followed both of their careers for some time. I like how she plays Americans so well. And I am delighted he's stepped up to the male lead, which generally means romance. I think without one another they handle romantic roles well and so it would seem to be a bonus to get them together.
The other part that got me to buy a ticket... first showing, Friday matinee (cheap), he boasts... was I had seen the previews a few times and the setting of smalltown America always appeals to me. I love putting ordinary folks in some extraordinary situations and see what they do with them. And for me, it never hurts to have a teenage boy in the midst... no, not for what you're thinking, you dirty-minded people... but because the greatest angst I ever knew was in my teenage years and I like to see how some other kid handles it.
So, hey, sign me up. The previews will tell you it's about a divorced mother and her teen son and the escaped prisoner who enters their lives and their home. No one is terrorized by the sudden turn of events. He says there's more to the murder charge than they are aware. The son is quite taken by him, by his decency, by his attention, handling things the boy's father should have been doing. The mother is a very sad lady indeed... desperately missing something in her life, likely love.
The escapee and the sad lady fall in love and once that happens, there's more of an investment in how it all turns out. And how that is you'll have to find out on your own but I certainly found the ending to be a bit of a surprise.
I just did a piece on director Douglas Sirk and I couldn't help thinking he would have done something like this. It had the look of those 1950s films and sensibilities (the time frame here was the late 80s). This had the feel of a soap opera and yet it didn't go all the way there. But judging it then as a serious drama, if that is what writer-director Reitman intended, then I'm favoring an attitude that says don't be so corny with some of the emotions and dialogue.
There was a liberal use of flashbacks which I don't think were all that interesting or necessary. The main story suffered at the expense of these trips into the past.
The kid's character (the Tobey Maguire grownup version) was the narrator of the film, something I did like, for a certain comfort it brought to the story but admittedly he sometimes narrated a little too much. Hats off to young Gattlin Griffith, playing the kid with the right amount of pathos, sincerity and energy and showing a character who is trying to weather the passing storms in his young life. Brolin must be the nicest escaped prisoner to ever hop on a movie screen and he played it all just right, adding a certain hunky charm to the proceedings. I'm not out to fault Winslet's thespian maneuvering but I am not so sold on her character, which was a little too dull for my tastes, making me wonder what Brolin's character was so attracted to... unless, ok, it was that.
For Reitman the director and Reitman the writer, I don't think he has yet to give us a film that was great. He may get there. Let's face it, if this was really worthy of going for the gold, it wouldn't have been dumped into frigid January. And I suppose no one considered releasing it over the long Labor Day weekend? The film was unremarkable but I can't say that I didn't enjoy it. I did.
Favorite Film #3