Jason Reitman‘s Labor Day (Paramount, 12.25) “is a decently crafted, amber-lighted period drama, based on the 2009 Joyce Maynard book and set during the Labor Day holiday of 1987,” I wrote from the Telluride Film festival on 8.29.13. “It begins as a kind of home invasion situation that isn’t quite a hostage or kidnapping thing. It’s a family love story of sorts mixed with a criminal-hiding-out-in-the-home-of-a-single-neurotic-mom-and-her-son story. A spin on a yarn that sinks in every so often. It has a current of sincerity. It tries to do the right thing.
“Josh Brolin is the convict and Kate Winslet is the mom. But it’s clear early on that Brolin is the gentle nurturing type who’s looking for a little love (and who isn’t?) and that Winslet misses the company of a good man. So before long the film has turned into Escaped Convict Knows Best (And He Sure Can Cook A Pie). But it’s one of those films that are driven by a backstory that happened in the past, and that kind of thing irritates me. Or it did today at least.
“Brolin delivers his best performance since No Country For Old Men, but — I’m sorry but this has to be said — Reitman’s movie isn’t very satisfying. It doesn’t get it. It’s not a catastrophe but it felt to me like a sensitive humanist misfire.”
“Labor Day is also about how a 13 year-old boy (played by Gattlin Griffith) can, in a movie like this, turns into a slightly larger alien with CG eyes when he turns 16 or 17, and then reverse course and shrink into Tobey Maguire when he reaches maturity. It’s a horrible third-act miscalculation, and already I’ve been called a dick for mentioning this.”
Additionally: “Brolin has a steady, authoritative ‘man of the house’ manner in Labor Day. His character is probably a little too gentle and refined and devoted to baking pies for someone who’s done time for manslaughter, okay, but I believed in that anchored, down-to-it, let’s-get-this-done vibe.”