Labor Day tells the story of a woman who falls madly in love with an escaped prison convict over the course of a Labor Day weekend. At first glance, a movie stacked sky high with ridiculous platitudes and even a ridiculous premise to match. However, Labor Day tends to have a little more to say than early footage would suggest. This film could easily be written off for the general schlock of grocery store romance novels, but in the end it rises above.
Opening in 1987 we meet Adele Wheeler (Kate Winslet) and her son Henry (Gattlin Griffith). The two live a rather sheltered lifestyle. We are to assume that Adele is an emotional wreck from her divorce from Henry’s father (Clarke Gregg). She is a mess and refuses to leave the house more than once a month. Henry narrates this entire story and develops a close and helpful relationship with his mother. Never being able to fulfill the lost that she suffered, Henry also feels levels of inadequacy.
When Adele and Henry go to a local department store to pick up their monthly supplies is when things get interesting. During their shopping, Henry walks off to look at the comics (just an excuse to look at the sexy ladies on the magazine covers). He encounters Frank Chambers (Josh Brolin). Frank makes it very clear that he needs their help, and let’s Adele know she has little choice in the matter. He is of course the escaped convict on the run from the local police. He makes Adele and Henry take him back to their place so he can rest from his injuries and decide his next move.
At this point in the movie you get the feeling that this is nothing but a series of stockholm syndrome moments brought on by Frank’s ability to fix the car, work on the broken stairs, and of course make a peach pie from scratch. Teaching both Adele and Henry these skills makes Frank seem like a standup guy, which he is. Throughout the movie we get flashes of how Frank became a prisoner and you as the audience are left to decide whether or not it was deserved. As Frank continues to cook and clean for Adele and Henry we go further down the rabbit’s hole to meet the world’s greatest guy! I have to be honest, I thought this was incredibly contrived and basic. Exactly what I was shown in the trailer and none of this was a surprise; good or bad.
What brought the movie from a mediocre viewing to something of real meaning was what happens next. The reveal (and for the sake of not ruining the movie I won't say what happens) of why Adele is really so torn down as a person is fantastically handled. Showing the full range of emotions surrounding the events are genuine and gripping. These moments elevated the movie above the nonsensical level of a story with a shirtless Fabio character on the cover. Kate Winslet delivers a great performance even with the limited material she is given. Brolin also makes a valiant effort. His brooding Frank Chambers was fairly one dimensional, but Brolin made it work. Gattlin Griffith does a wonderful job as well with what he has. The main hinderous to the movie is its thin character development. Had the three main characters been flushed out more this could have carried the movie a tad further. While not a full experience, Labor Day gives us hope that not all films in January are complete garbage.
[easyreview title= "Review of Labor Day" cat1title="Jay's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="3.5" overall= false]