Does prison reform really work? According to Director Jason Reitman’s “Labor Day,” it can work so well that it will have you escaping prison just in order to bake pies like Martha Stewart.
In 1987 New Hampshire on Labor Day weekend, Adele (Kate Winslett) and her thirteen year old boy Henry (Gattlin Griffith) are trying to put the pieces together from their broken family. Adele’s husband Gerald (Clark Gregg) is one of those real sensitive types of men who feels that once your wife has a miscarriage or two, it’s time to find a new wife. The breakup leaves poor Adele a nervous wreck; unable to leave the house to do chores, and putting tremendous stress on young Henry, who must now take care of his depressed mother.
In a moment of clarity, Adele gets up the nerve to take Henry to the hardware store where the two of them make acquaintances with a rough looking character named Frank (Josh Brolin). Frank, who is somewhat disheveled (and bleeding to boot), ask for a ride and Adele reluctantly agrees. What else can one do when a bleeding, neo-Nazi look-a-like ask for a lift?
Once the three of them get back to the house they find out that Frank is an escaped prisoner on the lam, but that he is actually a good guy. At first, he courteously ties up Adele and Henry, explaining that he must do this so that if the police arrive they will not get the impression that they are harboring a criminal. Once the tie-up phase is no longer deemed necessary, Frank gets to work: He makes chili, fixes the station wagon, cleans and waxes the floor, and even cleans out the gutters (I don’t even clean my own gutters). When the chores are done, Frank goes out to the back yard and teaches Henry how to play baseball. Frank, a man who does not like to sit on his laurels, then out does himself by holding a peach pie making class for Adele and Henry. Did I also mention that Frank has also found his way into Adele’s bed?
Things just seem to be too good to be true, and we expect Frank to turn really creepy, but he never does: He really is a nice guy. Too bad the cops searching the neighborhood are not of the same persuasion. Adele has now developed what looks like “Weekend Stockholm Syndrome” and a plan is made for all of them to escape. Just where does a nice guy convict who has been convicted of murder, and his nice kidnapped family go to get some peace?
As absurd as the plot sounds, having two wonderful actors like Josh Brolin and Kate Winslett makes the movie more than watchable; it’s actually interesting. I recommend the movie ─ with a pinch of salt. Now available at Redbox.
(Rated PG-13; 111 minutes).
3 of 5: Peach Pies.