In Defense of “Labor Day”

Labor-Day-Film 2014 | 1 hour 51 minutes | Dir. Jason Reitman | Paramount

Labor Day is about an escaped convict who hides in the home of a depressed divorcee and her 13- year- old son during Labor Day. The son narrates the movie. Jason Reitman directed and co- wrote the film, based on the novel by Joyce Maynard.

????????? Jason Reitman’s early films Thank You For Smoking, Juno and Up In The Air scored with critics, audiences and awards shows. He followed Up In The Air with Young Adult, written by Juno writer Diablo Cody and starring Charlize Theron. (Young Adult was abysmal.) All of Reitman’s previous films were kind of funny and billed as comedies even though they dealt with heavy emotional themes. With Labor Day, Jason Reitman attempts his first grown- up, serious drama.   No irony, sarcasm, or witty one- liners from George Clooney here. I really enjoyed Labor Day, and it surprised me to see that the film got terrible reviews. Even the good reviews were kind of backhanded: Time Out, a “fresh” review on Rotten Tomatoes, says, “If you have even the tiniest cynical bone in your body, avoid. You’ll find Labor Day more sugary than a cronut.” labor-day-movie-photo-5 Most of the reviews called Labor Day “slop”. The words “ludicrous”, “boring”, and “mush” also abounded. Critics loved mocking the film’s pie motif: “Jason Reitman forgot the tapioca,” writes a critic from Slate. I felt critics didn’t open their eyeballs while watching this movie. First of all, if you don’t want to watch a slow, thoughtful, reserved movie, don’t. Watch a superhero movie. Second of all, many wrongfully labeled Labor Day as a romance. It’s a coming- of- age film. I’ll forgive the confusion, since Paramount released the film around Valentine’s Day and made it look like it was based on a Nicholas Sparks novel.  But, the entire story is told from the point of view from the Hank, the 13- year- old main character. There’s no love scene. You get to see Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin kiss, like, twice. And for those who found no “theme” in their “love story”, that’s because they were looking in the wrong place. The film had a very strong and well- supported theme: Being a man means taking care of a family. ????????? Kate Winslet’s character, Adele, fell into depression because her husband left her for his secretary after learning she could no longer have children. Hank’s dad represents the cowardly shell of a man who “just wanted a normal life” and bailed on his family when times got hard. Josh Brolin’s character, Frank, went to prison for accidentally killing his cheating slut wife after shoving her in the chest. He was raising another man’s baby and doing a damn good job when his wife died.  When Frank moves in with Adele, he fixes the house, fixes the car, makes chili, bakes a pie, teaches Hank not to suck at baseball and immediately starts acting protective towards his newly adopted family. He’s kind to the autistic neighbor kid.   The whole movie you’re waiting for Frank to snap into a merciless two- faced killer who’s just using Adele, but he never does. He wanted a family and knew how to handle one. Frank, played by the very manly Josh Brolin, showed Hank how to be a man. Labor Day Hank At the center of it all lies Hank, a quiet, reserved, obedient, contemplative kid. The devil on Hank’s shoulder comes in the form an anorexic city girl, also the child of divorced parents, who warns that Hank’s mom and her new boyfriend will drop him like a hot potato once their hormones get the best of them. Conflict comes from Hank’s feeling that him mom will leave him, and the ever- present threat of Frank being caught by the authorities. I cried when the actual Labor Day weekend ended. Tobey MacGuire labor day There are parts towards the beginning that feel super awkward. This movie features the most erotic pie- making scene in the history of film. It’s kind of like the pottery scene from Ghost, but with pie and a kid awkwardly thrown in. Hank grows up and opens a pie cafe, which seems super cheesy.  There is a part where Frank plays the cello like a guitar.  The film has sappy moments, but if I had to compare it to a pie, I’d compare it to the rugged, buttery/ flaky and delicious looking peach pie Frank and Adele make in the movie. Jason Reitman made a big- kid movie about growing up; sorry if that’s hard to swallow.


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