With a sappy romance drama so close to Valentine’s Day, there is an obvious effort with “Labor Day” to appeal to women everywhere.
However, the film should infuriate women everywhere as it presents a woman so lonely and desperate, she is willing to risk her and her son’s lives by not only letting an escaped convict into their home, but also falling in love with him. Not just a weekend fling, either, but a love that lasts her entire life.
Though some may find that sentiment sweet and endearing, what kind of woman falls in love with a man convicted of killing his wife and son while he takes her and her son hostage?
Screenwriter and director Jason Reitman took a break from directing sarcastic, comedic hits such as “Juno,” “Thank You for Smoking” and “Up in the Air,” to take a chance on creating what is at worst, a film that is just a step above a Lifetime Movie Network film, and at best a lousy Nicholas Sparks rip-off.
In fact, if “Labor Day” took place in North Carolina, it would be very difficult to convince someone that it is not a Sparks film.
The film begins in 1987 with Adele (Kate Winslet), a depressed, reclusive trembling version of her former vivacious and confident self, reluctantly taking her son Henry (Gattlin Griffith) shopping for new clothes before school starts.
While at the store, a man named Frank (Josh Brolin) approaches Henry and sparks up small conversation. When Henry notices that he is injured, Frank asks for help.
Adele is reluctant to assist, but when Frank puts his hand on the back of Henry’s neck in an effort to appear intimidating, she agrees to give Frank a ride.
Which goes to show, that the only weapons you need when kidnapping a woman and her son are ruggedly handsome features and a confident, stern look.
In case Adele’s weak and delicate nature wasn’t blatantly obvious before this point, when the trio arrives to their home, Frank continues his unconvincing attempt to be threatening by requesting Adele to allow him to tie her up, that way when asked by police she wouldn’t be lying. He then proceeds to gently wrap her in a loose fitting bound before going to prepare dinner.
In the creepiest move of the entire film, he then begins to feed her in such a seductive way that it’s like foreplay for people with a Stockholm syndrome fetish.
During his time in their home, Frank becomes the attentive husband and father Adele and Henry were looking for.
Though Frank should have been locked in the house, he risked his newfound freedom to work on the car, clean the gutters and teach Henry how to play baseball. But that was just the beginning. He also cooked, did laundry and mopped and waxed the floors.
In a scene straight out of “Ghost,” the trio also bakes a peach pie together, seductively, intertwining their fingers in the pie filling. No wonder Adele was able to overlook the fact Frank was convicted of killing his wife and baby – how could a man so sweet and tender be capable of such things?
Amid the corny dialogue and rage-inducing plot, there were moments that left teary eyes toward the end. Though it certainly wasn’t due to gag-worthy, cheesy lines from Brolin such as, “I came to save you. Tomorrow that is exactly what I will do,” or “I’d take 20 more years just to have another three days with you.”
The emotional reaction was a testament more to Winslet and Brolin’s acting abilities than anything else.
It is hard to blame Winslet and Brolin for the downfalls of this film. Both did the best with what they were given, and gave performances on the caliber both are known for.
The biggest blame should be placed on Reitman. He was clearly out of his element and not even the help from two award-winning actors could save him.