There was a point in my life when Jason Reitman was headed to the top of my favorite working directors list. With films like Up in the Air and Thank You for Smoking. But, his collaborations with Diablo Cody never quite did it for me. Especially, Young Adult his last film, was a complete failure for me. So, coming into his latest film Labor Day, it's easy to say I'm a little nervous. The odds seem stacked against it. Since, it is a January release which is notoriously the weakest month for film. So, does Labor Day beat the odds or does it fall flat on it's face. Find out after the break.
Labor Day, is the story of Adele a pained divorcee and her son Henry, who pick up the convict Frank. What starts out as a suspenseful hostage situation quickly, buds into a romance. Unfortunately, for the story the romance buds too quickly. Adele is so, damaged that she falls madly in love with Frank right after they make a pie together.
That's when the suspense dies. The occasional neighbor pops in unannounced as if they never heard of knocking. This creates a little bit of suspense, that last for about five minutes. But, most of the film the family makes a little life for themselves in the backyard or around the house, as they play family. I say play family because, it never seems wholly convincing that they are fully congealing as a family unit. It's obvious, that Frank and Adele can offer each other exactly what each other needs. But, Kate Winslet plays Adele with so much nervousness, it's hard to be convinced that she is truly in love. And Josh Brolin always comes off as a little too overbearing and hostile. They both manage to pull it off when it counts the most and that's what matters. But, it's Gattlin Griffith who pulls off the most consistent and best performance as Henry. He tackles Henry with an emotional balance that the other actors can't seem to nail down.
Despite, the uneven performances and the rushed pacing there are some excellent upsides to Labor Day. The best parts of the film are the puzzle piece flashbacks of Frank's past.Over the film we get a few pieces of Franks past and we are left to connect them on our own. The pieces start off as cheery and slowly become darker, more upsetting pieces. Until, all the pieces are presented together as a full flashback of Frank's dark past.
The last wonderful pieces of Labor Day are Eric Steelberg's cinematography and Rolfe Kent's score. Both of which are worthy of their own Oscar campaigns. The cinematography is warm and summery. While, the score is what holds the more suspenseful scenes together. Even driving them at certain points.
Labor Day redeems Jason Reitman for Young Adult. But, I'm going to need a better picture than this to trust him again. There were moments of brilliance but, they were over shadowed by rushed pacing and uneven acting.
Paul's Score: 6 out of 10