Sun 31 Aug 2014
Screening ‘Labor Day’ (which was not brought to commercial theaters in Israel) released on Labor Day 2013 on the eve of Labor Day 2014 was a smart move for the distributors, that brought me to the cinematheque in my hometown. I am not sure that this was the smartest move for me in this American holiday weekend. Based upon a novel by Joyce Maynard, the film directed by Jason Reitman succeeds eventually to squeeze a tear, but demonstrates also that succeeding to squeeze a tear does not necessarily make a good film.
Kate Winslet is a divorced mother who raises alone her pre-teenage kid and whose feelings of loss and distress turned into deep anxiety. Josh Brolin plays an escaped convict who finds refuge in their house during the long Labor Day holiday weekend. What starts as a conflictual situation turns gradually in a love story as the man has his own sad history and the two find in each other what they always needed. It’s of course a story which cannot end well, not on short term at least, and the principal problem is that the premises of the melodrama are unnecessarily exaggerated for both heroes’ stories, and everything is awfully predictable after the very first few minutes.
Director Jason Reitman imposed a very minor style in cinematography and telling its story. All characters are uneasy, and this includes the teenage boy whose off-screen voice is used much too extensively on my taste in order to fill in some of the details of the narration, or to guide the feelings of the viewers. I think that I understand many of Reitman’s decisions but I cannot say that I liked the result. Kate Winslet is excellent in playing ladies in deep distress, and she does a fine job here as well, but watching her does not compensate the overdose of melodrama. There is nothing too wrong about this film, but I cannot recommend it as Labor Day or any other holiday entertainment either.