Labor Day

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labor day photoI’m not the biggest fan of writer/director (and son of Ivan) Jason Reitman. His movies Juno, Young Adult, Thank You For Smoking, and Up in the Air were all overrated.

With this movie he’s giving us 3 Days of the Condor meets Waitress. Instead of the hipness of a writer like Diablo Cody, he gives us the cheesiness of Nicholas Sparks.

Kate Winslet plays yet another unhappy homemaker (like in Little Children, Carnage, and Revolution Road) living in New England in 1987. Her son Henry is about to start 7th grade and about to go through puberty. He’s a bit bummed that his father (the always great Clark Gregg) has married his secretary and has a new family.  He’s played by Gattlin Griffith, who shows some better acting chops in this than Winslet. His subtle facial expressions and reactions are perfect. Winslet, with her handshaking and crying, seems to be doing all the things she made fun in Extras. She was telling Ricky Gervais in that, the various things needed in a performance to garner an Oscar nomination.

Anyway, Winslet is mourning the loss of her husband (and multiple babies), when along comes a tall, dark stranger. He’s an escaped prisoner (Josh Brolin has the perfect look) that has a heart of gold. Who else would tie you to a chair, and then fix up all the things wrong with your house? Oh, the dude also cooks. I’m guessing most women would say “Tie me up all you want, if you’re going to cook and be a handyman around the house.”

Which means it’s not so much Stockholm syndrome when she falls for him, but actual feelings any person in her shoes might have (I also don’t think Stockholm syndrome would apply to a mere three day weekend). This is a guy who, not only irons his clothes without his shirt, but teaches her son how to properly throw a baseball and how to make the perfect pie crust. You know…I think I’m starting to fall for this guy.

If it wasn’t for such an impressive cast (J.K. Simmons even shows up as a concerned neighbor), this would’ve just been another made-for-tv movie on Lifetime.

The last few months I’ve seen a lot of movies with great chemistry between the leads, but this is one where it’s not achieved. I’m not sure if it’s because you spend half the movie thinking Brolin is a murderer that could still be dangerous. Oh, the reveal of that murder and the two back-stories that are slowly revealed don’t do this movie any favors.

You know how much we love the narration of Morgan Freeman? Well, that’s how much I hate the narration of Tobey Maguire. I was hoping that The Great Gatsby would be the last.

There were a handful of mildly touching scenes, as well as two that brought me to tears. One of them involved a father admitting to his son that he wasn’t the best dad or husband. The other was a moment late in the movie that I can’t reveal. Although I’m somebody that cries easily in movies, and there were so many other scenes that should’ve brought tears to my eyes, but just didn’t work.

Anybody watching this will know exactly where every scene is headed. There isn’t a single surprise in the entire two hours. That doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it. I was never really bored watching it, although the woman I brought with me was.

Movie critic Roger Moore calls this, “The Prisons of Madison County.” Nice.

I’m giving it 2 stars out of 5.