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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Labor Day | Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Gattlin Griffith, Clark Gregg, Maika Monroe | Review

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Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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Labor Day | Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Gattlin Griffith, Clark Gregg, Brighid Fleming | Review

It’s 1987. Divorced, defeated, and depressed single mom Adele (Kate Winslet) and son Henry (Gattlin Griffith) are forcibly “persuaded” to transport and house Frank (Josh Brolin) an injured convicted murderer (escaped from the hospital after an appendix operation) for five days that include the Labor Day weekend; hence the title.

And that is the only part of this story that has any plausibility.

Decisions and actions that take place after that defy logic, good sense, human nature, and believability.  That in itself is a lot to swallow, but added to the cloying music and the gentle sunlight filtering through the trees as romance blossoms, the ensuing events tip the scale into the neighborhood of “Huh?”

Told in flashbacks that center on Frank’s first marriage, murder conviction and a related tragedy, the film denies the viewer any relatability.  Well, perhaps divorced, defeated, depressed women would understand, but they’d have to be desperate, too.  Frank has a story that essentially explains everything, except why Adele would fall so hard and so fast for someone who jeopardizes her and her son’s life in multiple ways.  Maybe it’s because he can cook a peach pie that includes a sensuous fruit massage.  What a catch!

Want some examples of head-shaking stupidity?  Adele allows Frank to tie her up, for appearances’ sake, and then spoon-feed her.  He’s supposed to stay out of sight from neighbors, but Henry walks in an unlocked screen door to find his mother and the convict mambo-ing in the kitchen in the middle of the day.  Frank cleans out the gutters in the bright sunshine, too, in a montage of handyman helpfulness.

Writer/director Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air) faithfully (I’m told) adapts the Joyce Maynard book for the screen, and serves up a melodrama full of contrivance, counter-intuitive actions, judgment lapses and stupefying progressions.  Subplots involving Henry’s relationship with his remarried father (Clark Gregg) and a precocious friend (Brighid Fleming) provide little conflict, although there are some tense moments early on with Frank’s initial appearance and also toward the end of the film, inside a bank run by the world’s nosiest manager.

In between those two scenes is where the labor comes in, although Frank’s kindness toward a disabled boy (Micah Fowler) is a brief, welcome oasis of compassion at the midpoint.

Winslet, Brolin, and Reitman have all done excellent work in the past, so this foray into the unfathomable is doubly disappointing.  Gattlin Griffith is engaging as Adele’s astute son (someone has to be), but is puzzlingly played by Tobey McGuire as an adult; the two look startlingly dissimilar.  McGuire also provides the film’s narration so that there is actual proof that the way things happen is the way they happened.  Proof is needed because character behavior, especially Adele’s, is so questionable.

Sorry to say, but Labor Day is not a holiday worth celebrating.


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