In my youth I wrote film reviews for the university newspaper and later I was the arts editor - and was criticised for favouring the modern arts such as cinema and stand up comedy over the traditional ones like theatre and classical music. It wasn't true, but there you go. Being invited to a preview screening is so very exciting as I often don't watch films until long after everyone else, so to get to see one before it's actually released is a rare treat. I've known the friend I went with since those uni days and over the years we've been to watch artier films like Pollock and Magnolia. I dragged him to watch Along Came Polly some years back and I think he's just about forgiven me so he agreed to join me for this preview.
Labor Day is based on a book of the same name and was directed by Jason Reitman - the Academy Award winning director of Juno and Up In The Air. The stars are Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin and some younger actors who grow up to become Tobey Maguire. There is a tiny appearance by Juno's father (J.K. Simmons) which was lovely as was the realisation that the policeman in the town was Dawson (James Van Der Beek).
The story centres on a Labor Day weekend when Henry Wheeler and his mother Adele meet Frank Chambers in the supermarket and he convinces them to take him home with them as he is in need of help. They soon realise he is an escaped convict and Stockholm Syndrome sets in almost immediately as they fall in love with their captor while he repairs the house and they try not to alert the police or neighbours to his presence in the home.
Not only is this story about Adele finding herself again after many losses in her life, but about Henry discovering a father figure in this man who comes into their lives and in one long weekend becomes the piece that completes their family. The portrayal of Frank as a misunderstood man is typified by the scene where he teaches Henry and a disabled neighbour to play baseball having earlier baked a peach pie.
This film had a touch of the Bridges of Madison County about it and yet at rare points it reminded me of Juno - which I loved. It is beautifully shot, but the storytelling is a bit mawkish for my liking and the characters are quite one dimensional. The mother of the disabled boy and Henry's father in particular are too simplistic. The fact that they would uproot their entire lives for a man they barely know was a bit baffling too, but the build up of tension does create a sense of drama.
I'm growing to like Josh Brolin as an actor and his gruffness suits this role really well. Kate Winslet almost reprises her role in Revolutionary Road - with a touch of Holy Smoke there too - and at times she reminds me of Ruth Jones in Stella. She plays Adele as frumpy and sad, but it is a fine line between sympathetic and pathetic. Henry is the narrator of the story so maybe this is more about his point of view of his mother at a trying time.
This is definitely a Sunday afternoon movie and there was one point where a sob came up from a fellow audience member - I was close to tears myself - so it's also a bit of a weepie. Maybe a rainy Sunday afternoon :)
Labor Day: official release date 21st March 2014