Dripping with ham-fisted sincerity and gawky sentimentality, Labor Day is the exact film that you would assume was written by Nicholas Sparks and would star Zac Efron. While I’m all for a director branching out and challenging themselves creatively, Jason Reitman’s latest effort is such a drastic and radical shift from his previous works, that I question if the gifted filmmaker was ever involved in the project in the first place.
Quite perplexing, the exhaustingly melodramatic Labor Day has the emotional depth and delicacy of a thousand supermarket paperback novels being hammered down your throat at the same time. Gone with is the young auteur’s beloved snarky-tone, cynical humour, beguiling characters and his distinctively quirky framing and editing style that made Thank You For Smoking (2005), Juno (2007), Up in the Air (2009) and Young Adult (2011) so wonderfully fresh. In its stead is piles of laughable cliches about yearning over unfulfilled sexual desires and the importance of baking and eating a good pie.
The story takes place over the American Labor Day weekend, where escaped convict Frank (Josh Brolin) demands to be given sanctuary by the clinically depressed Adele (Kate Winslet) and her staid son Henry (Gattlin Griffith). Forced into each others lives, the three rapidly connect and enjoy living as a pseudo family unit with the idea of fulfilling each other’s dreams.
The performances are all fine and Winslet can add to her ever-growing catalogue of unhappy oppressed females (see Revolutionary Road, Little Children for more information) but they are given sweet nothing to work with. Unfortunately despite desperately trying to buy into Reitman’s sweepingly theatrical romp, not a single moment reigned as true or earned. And the less said about the overarching symbology behind the baked pie the better.
I still refuse to believe that this was the Jason Reitman who I’ve held in the greatest regard now for almost a decade. This was some other Canadian filmmaker whose stolen Reitman’s identity and title for a moment in time.
I am avidly looking for the real Jason Reitman to return. Let’s see what that guy does next.