Film

'Labor Day' Is a Labor-Intensive Watch

Even with all of the talent on display, Labor Day is a major disappointment.


Labor Day

Director: Jason Reitman
Cast: Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Gattlin Griffith, Tobey Maguire
Distributor: Paramount
Studio: Indian Paintbrush, Mr. Mudd, and Right of Way Films
Release date: 2014-04-29

According to most moviegoers and critics, Kate Winslet is one of contemporary cinema’s best actresses. If this is true, her performance in Labor Day (2013) isn’t indicative of her talent.

Directed by Jason Reitman, Winslet plays Adele, a depressed housewife who harbors an escaped prison inmate (Josh Brolin) in her house and falls in love with him. If this premise sounds ridiculous to you, then you’ve passed the sanity test. Reitman’s screenplay is based on Joyce Maynard’s novel, and he should have had the good sense to select another project.

Winslet, too, should have realized that most moviegoers are sick of her depressed housewife character. After Little Children (2006) and Revolutionary Road (2008), we get that Winslet knows how to play suburban angst and wish that she would try something different.

There’s so much talent on display in Labor Day that ultimately the film is a major disappointment. Reitman is an accomplished filmmaker, and his earlier works like Thank You for Smoking (2005), Up in the Air (2009), and Young Adult (2011) are modern masterpieces. It’s somewhat of a shock, then, that Labor Day doesn’t engage the viewer in any meaningful way.

There are two stories told in the film. The first and most prominent focuses on the relationship between Adele and the fugitive, Frank, and the way it impacts Adele’s adolescent son Henry (Gattlin Griffith). The second is told in flashback and explains why Frank went to prison. In addition, there is a strange, awkward subplot in which Henry forms a relationship with a girl his age, and it’s supposed to mirror the sexual tension between Adele and Frank.

The preposterous premise of the film wouldn’t be a problem if it was executed well. Reitman’s maudlin approach, however, removes the eroticism from the picture and renders it laughable as a result. I didn’t buy any of it, and when the third act reached its “shocking” conclusion, I wished for nothing more than the DVD to stop working and put me out of my misery. Unfortunately, the DVD played on, which is arguably the only saving grace that comes with this duel-format purchase.

Winslet attempts to capture Adele’s anxiety with her shaking hands and nervous twitches, but it’s hard to believe that any woman would act this way. I’m more inclined to blame Reitman for this, considering that Winslet has successfully played a depressed suburbanite in other films, but it’s a cringe-worthy performance, nonetheless. Winslet is so sacred in certain circles that she’ll be praised for anything, which might explain why she was nominated for a Golden Globe for this performance, but even the greats need to be called out when they phone it in.

If Safe Haven (2013) can find an audience, then anything can happen to Labor Day, but better films have been made about similar subject matter. The Bridges of Madison County (1995) is a far superior love story between two lost souls, Monster’s Ball (2001) is a more intriguing investigation of detached eroticism, and Little Children represents Winslet at her very best.

Perhaps in the future someone will invent a fun drinking game in which everyone takes a shot when something unintentionally hilarious happens in Labor Day. This is the only way I can imagine viewers sitting through this otherwise useless dreck.

1
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Alps 2 and Harry No Release Eclectic Single "Madness at Toni's Chip Shop in Wishaw" (premiere)

Alps 2 and Harry NoSong's "Madness at Toni's Chip Shop in Wishaw" is a dizzying mix of mangled 2-step rhythms and woozy tranquil electronics.

Music

Kathleen Grace and Larry Goldings Team for Wonderfully Sparse "Where Or When" (premiere)

Kathleen Grace and Larry Goldings' "Where Or When" is a wonderfully understated performance that walks the line between pop and jazz.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 1, Gang of Four to the Birthday Party

If we must #quarantine, at least give us some post-punk. This week we are revisiting the best post-punk albums of all-time and we kick things off with Gang of Four, Public Image Ltd., Throbbing Gristle, and more.

Music

Alison Chesley Toils in Human and Musical Connectivity on Helen Money's 'Atomic'

Chicago-based cellist, Alison Chesley (a.k.a. Helen Money) creates an utterly riveting listen from beginning to end on Atomic.

Music

That Kid's 'Crush' Is a Glittering Crossroads for E-Boy Music

That Kid's Crush stands out for its immediacy as a collection of light-hearted party music, but the project struggles with facelessness.

Books

Percival Everett's ​​​'Telephone​​​' Offers a Timely Lesson

Telephone provides a case study of a family dynamic shaken by illness, what can be controlled, and what must be accepted.

Reviews

Dream Pop's Ellis Wants to be 'Born Again'

Ellis' unhappiness serves as armor to protect her from despair on Born Again. It's better to be dejected than psychotic.

Music

Counterbalance No. 10: 'Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols'

The Spirit of ’77 abounds as Sex Pistols round out the Top Ten on the Big List. Counterbalance take a cheap holiday in other people’s misery. Right. Now.

Film

'Thor: Ragnorak' Destroys and Discards the Thor Mythos

Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok takes a refreshingly iconoclastic approach to Thor, throwing out the old, bringing in the new, and packaging the story in a colourful, gorgeously trashy aesthetic that perfectly captures the spirit of the comics.

Music

Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.

Books

New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.

Music

Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.

Music

Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.

Music

New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.

Books

'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.

Music

Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.

Music

Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.

Music

M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.

Music

Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.

Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.