Released a couple of weeks before Valentine’s Day, “Labor Day” is a visually beautiful, romantic film adapted from the lovely, moving book by Joyce Maynard. Branching away from comedy, Jason Reitman adapted and directed the film, though he may have bitten off more than he can chew; his film lacks the intensity and depth of emotion that the romantic story lives in.
Henry (Gattlin Griffith), a boy becoming a teen, lives alone with his lonely, nervous mother, Adele (Kate Winslet), after his father (Clark Gregg) leaves them. On one of their rare trips to the local store, a wounded, escaped criminal, Frank (Josh Brolin), convinces them to shelter him at their home. Fearing for her son and afraid of attention, Adele does whatever Frank wishes, but this kind convict has no intention of hurting anyone. As Frank hides in Adele’s small world, the two find a connection in their seclusion. Meanwhile, Henry is torn between his happiness for his mother and his fear of being left behind.
It is always tricky to adapt a novel, but Jason Reitman has found success doing so for his films “Thank You for Smoking” and “Up in the Air.” However, the world he creates for Adele and Frank is not cold enough, lacking the overall melancholy and loneliness of the novel. His friendlier presentation turns the drama into Nicholas Sparks-like saccharin instead of genuine sweetness and the extreme emotion into caricature rather than desperation.
“Labor Day” does not lack in merit, though. The narrator’s attention to details featured in the book come through with cinematographer Eric Steelberg’s vision. Kate Winslet beautifully plays the extremely fragile, barely functional Adele while Josh Brolin exudes strength and tenderness; the actors bring the characters to life as they each learn to love and live again. Clark Gregg is a wonderful addition and superbly plays his role with subtlety, a refreshing break from the extreme emotions.
A truly romantic film, “Labor Day” attempts to create a world in which two lovers are completely shut off from the rest of the world; their pasts ended their futures but they desperately try to find one together. Unfortunately, Reitman skips a step and forgets to establish the foundation of the emotional tone of two lives without hope. Too late in the film do we receive the source of either of their past trouble and the cause of each loneliness.
Rating for “Labor Day:” C+
For more information on this film or to view its trailer, click here.
“Labor Day” will only be playing at Marcus Crosswoods, Rave Polaris, Cinemark Gahanna, Regal Georgesville Square, and AMC Lennox, Dublin, Grove City and Easton in Columbus for Valentine’s Day. For showtimes, click here.