Certain movies ask for the viewer to take a leap of faith when the theater goes dark and the show goes on. This is the world of make believe and creation, so it’s important for a film addict to consider that when walking into any film. Jason Reitman’s latest film, Labor Day, is a film that the cynics will have a field day with but a story that old fashion romantics like myself will step out of their seat and participate in this real life slice of escapism.
I credit Kate Winslet’s performance as the highlight of this film. When we first meet this single mom, Adele, she seems wounded and allergic to human interaction and exposure to conversation. Griffith, who plays her son Henry, is the only man in her life and this bird needs more love than that to take flight. Throughout the course of the film, Winslet runs the gauntlet of human emotion, from fearless happiness to complete sadness. It’s a marvelous and restrained performance. When an actress can show restraint and still convey a heavy dose of emotion, that’s a special event.
Brolin is very good as usual, playing the handyman of any woman’s dreams who swoops into this family’s broken life and starts putting it back together through some well-made pie, a few baseball lessons and just a presence. We see through flashbacks that this escaped convict has a world of pain all his own. If there is one man who can play the ultimate man in Hollywood, it’s Brolin. He’s easy to like here and shows off the right amount of vulnerability.
Reitman handles Joyce Maynard’s book with care but isn’t afraid to add his stylistic touches and expertise to the story behind the camera. As we saw in his previous films Up in The Air and Juno, Reitman has a fine skill at crafting drama through simplistic methods. There isn’t a lot of melodrama or out of place action. Every plot step is immediate and the dialogue is treated perfectly here by a first rate cast.
There are parts of the plot that are hard to buy, but remember this is a movie based off a book so leave your seat and just let it take you for a couple hours. The power of creators is knowing when to manipulate real life and when to let it shine through their personal tale.
Labor Day isn’t pure escapism or perfectly built but will find a nice warm home with the romantics who believe in unconventional love stories. Reitman, Winslet, Brolin and Griffith were the right people to bring Maynard’s lovely written tale to the big screen and thus this movie is worth the trip.