Labor pains

OUT NOW! Jason Reitman's LABOR DAY explores themes of reconciliation but ultimately lacks credibility.

Labor Day from Jason Reitman (Young Adult, Up in the Air) starts out promisingly by keeping reconciliation apolitical. An opening long-take of rustling beauty meanders through late 1980s small-town New England, drawing us into the lives of Adele (Winslet) and adolescent son Henry (Griffith), broken by the absence of husband/father who now lives nearby with his second wife and family.

Even before escaped con Frank (Brolin) intrudes on their shuttered existence by forcing himself on them during a supermarket run, Adele’s insecurities testify to her inability to forgive herself for a failed marriage. Frank too has plenty that he needs to reconcile: a tragic accident involving his errant wife and the perceived injustice of prison time.

With remarkable alacrity (and a bloodstained t-shirt), Frank is soon hiding out with Adele and Henry over Labor Day weekend, baking peach pies and basking under their appreciative gaze. But where, o where, is the due diligence of process? Not all the yearning of warm, filtered sunlight in quiet interiors can account for such intimacy.

Investing these developments with more dialogue and pace would have given them greater credibility. As it is, Reitman’s screenplay is too forgiving of its own inconsistencies to bear the weight of reconciliation that it pre-supposes for its characters.

Labor Day | Directed by Jason Reitman (USA 2013) with Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin. Starts May 8

Originally published in issue #127, May 2014.