Studio: Paramount (1 hr. 51 min.)
Plot: A depressed single mother and her son offer a wounded fearsome man a ride that changes their lives.
Cast: Josh Brolin, Kate Winslet, Gattlin Griffith, Toby Maguire, Tom Lipinski, Maika Monroe
Bottom Line: ***1/2
By J.R. Johnson
Traditionally Labor Day isn’t the most romantic day of the year. Between the last days of summer and the start of school, romance is probably the last thing on anyone’s mind. But in director Jason Reitman’s film adaptation of Joyce Maynard’s book, romance is pushed to the forefront of this unique love story.
The film follows Henry (Gattlin Griffith), a 13-year-old boy in the midst of his transformation into early teens. Henry is starting to recognize what makes girls special, amongst other things that strike a young man’s interest. However, Henry is too tall to fit into his pants, he has questions about life with no answers, and it’s all happening right before the start of school. And to punctuate Henry’s awkward growing pains, he lives with his emotionally friable mother Adele (Kate Winslet) – who is emotionally recovering from a broken marriage.
On a routine trip to the store, Henry and Adele meet Frank (Josh Brolin), who unbeknownst to them is an escaped prisoner. Taking advantage of Henry’s youthful ignorance and his anxiety-riddled mother, Frank persuades the pair to harbor him from the police until he can find his way out of town.
Frank quickly turns from captor into someone special as they spend the holiday weekend together. What was planned as a short stint, turns into a five-day revolution that changes all three lives who find the family dynamic they’ve all been longing for.
What first feels like a classic case of Stockholm syndrome changes as Henry and Adele begin to craft psychotically sincere relationships with Frank who fills their empty lives. Henry and Adele start imagining a positive future with Frank as his gentle nature unravels into their lives. Henry has someone to mentor him, and Adele has someone to hold her at night.
It all happens so fast, that it doesn’t seem real, however, the passion manifested between the performance of Brolin and Winslet inflates the illusion just enough for us to believe something this crazy could happen. Along with the talented cast fostering an excellent impression of a small town, “Labor Day” is beautifully filmed. It feels genuine. And as a result, the book is brought to life.
This was printed in the February 23, 2014 - March 8, 2014 edition.