Labor Day

 
Uneven melodrama with confusing messages about love.
  • Review Date: January 31, 2014
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 111 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Although the movie takes a strangely positive stance on harboring a fugitive, it does encourage people to see past the obvious and figure out for themselves if someone is guilty or not. Adele's story challenges viewers to recognize how love is sometimes found in the unlikeliest of circumstances and how longing for love can make you lonely and isolated. Henry's tale shows the power of parent-child relationships. Frank teaches Adele and Henry about the simple pleasures of good company and good food and being a whole family.

Positive role models

Henry is a remarkably mature and loving son. He does his best to make his single mother feel loved and cared for, by making her food, dancing with her, and generally acting like a companion not just a son. Despite her depression, Adele is a caring, protective mother who loves her son. Henry's father apologizes to him for not being more involved or able to help Adele through her sadness. Frank is a convicted murderer, but he's also kind and selfless and ultimately makes a difficult choice rather than cause Adele and Henry any pain.

Violence

An escaped convict, bleeding through a shirt, roughly grabs a 13-year-old boy by the neck and arms and forces his mom to help him. The ex-con grabs a woman and her son several times but never causes any harm. In flashbacks, we see how two accidental deaths occurred. There's a disturbing sequence when a woman recalls several miscarriages and a still birth (you see her crying, screaming, and crouching with blood streaming down her legs, and you also see her holding her stillborn baby). A mother slaps her wheelchair bound son across the face.

Sex

There are a couple of flashbacks to a young man kissing and having sex (mostly clothed) with his girlfriend. A boy hears his mother and a man making love, and there's an uncomfortable undertone of jealousy. A middle-school-aged girl talks to another tween about sex and how it makes adults crazy, is addictive like a drug, and causes people (including divorced parents) to do risky, dangerous things or to get rid of their kids. A tween also mentions incest.

Language
Not applicable
Consumerism

Scenes in a supermarket and kitchen include shots of the following brands: Ford station wagon, Coca Cola, Tab, Quik, Promise margarine, Yuban coffee, GE lightbulbs, Glamour, Mademoiselle,  KoolAid, Hi-C,

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Adults drink in a bar in one flashback scene.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Labor Day is a romantic drama centering on an escaped convict and a lonely single mother with more discussion of sex than actual scenes of it (although there are brief flashbacks to a young couple making love, while mostly clothed, and some late-night sex noises a teenager overhears). There's a hint of violence when a man gruffly grabs a teenager or a woman, but the more disturbing scenes involve flashbacks to accidental deaths and a string of sad miscarriages. There are some uplifting messages about how  people can fall in love and affect one another in just a few days, but there's also confusing messages about harboring a fugitive because he could be the love of your life.

What's the story?

Based on author Joyce Maynard's 2009 romance, LABOR DAY is narrated by an adult Henry Wheeler recalling the summer when he was a sensitive 13-year-old (Gattlin Griffith) looking after his depressed single mother Adele (Kate Winslet), a woman who only leaves the house once a month. On their monthly supply run, Henry runs into Frank (Josh Brolin), a bleeding escaped convict who forces Adele to give him a ride to her house. Over the course of the five-day Labor Day weekend, Frank reveals himself to be an expert handyman, chili maker, pie baker, father figure to Henry and love interest for Adele. As the authorities continue to look for Frank, Henry and Adele must decide to what lengths they will go to secure their newfound sense of family.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

It's unclear what director Jason Reitman (JunoUp in the Air) is trying to accomplish with this well-cast piece of treacle. Maybe he wanted to show he could direct an earnest film and still keep his cred as a brave and innovative director. But the result is a movie so overly sincere, melodramatic, and emotionally manipulative it makes The Bridges of Madison County seem edgy by comparison. It doesn't help that Reitman tries so hard to insert Terrence Malick-esque shots with natural light, close-ups of trees and grass and stillness. Only, it doesn't work. Even with the amazing cast, Reitman has only succeeded in making his worst movie to date.

Sure, this will play well with a segment of the population that likes poignant, doomed romances, and it must be admitted that there are brief moments when the heart-tugging and the drama will overcome even the most jaded moviegoer (particularly when it involves Henry and Adele). But those instances last for a few beats, and then you realize that the overwrought material (a Stockholm Syndrome love story) just isn't a good fit for Reitman's skills as a filmmaker, and it's certainly not fitting of actors of Winslet and Brolin's caliber. The movie is at its best when it deals with the mother-and-son relationship, and it's worst when it flashes back to the tragedies of Adele's and Frank's younger selves. Ultimately, it's such an uneven drama it leaves you dangerously devoid of emotion when it's done, except for perhaps frustration.

Families can talk about...

  • 1. Families can talk about the movie's message about love and sex. How does longing for love affect the characters? What are the implications of showing a woman finding her soulmate while harboring an escaped criminal?

  • 2. The movie asserts that lives can be forever changed in just a few days. Do you agree with this? Is the epilogue believable?

  • 3. What are some other romantic dramas in which the couple falls in love almost immediately? How do those love stories compare to Labor Day?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:January 31, 2014
DVD release date:April 29, 2014
Cast:Clark Gregg, Josh Brolin, Kate Winslet
Director:Jason Reitman
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Genre:Drama
Topics:Book characters
Run time:111 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:thematic material, brief violence and sexuality

This review of Labor Day was written by

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Quality

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Written byAnonymous October 4, 2014
age 14+
 

Shower com movie has confusing moments of sex and violence

My rating:PG-13 for violence and sexuality
Teen, 17 years old Written byB-KMastah February 21, 2014
age 11+
 

Fine.

This isn't as bad as I thought it would be, and also not as corny. The direction helps it from being bad and the performances are good, but the script does eventually get ridiculous and goes on for too long. Specifically, there's a narration-based epilogue that isn't really needed and kind of makes the ending not as good as it could have been. It's kind of cool that Jason Reitman is trying something new, but this is not what he should be trying. He works well with acerbic comedy, but not romantic dramas. He does elevate the material to an extent (for example, the pie scene shown in the trailer isn't nearly as hacky as one would think), but the material also holds him back, even if he did adapt the original novel for the screen. It's not like this movie made me upset or anything because you can tell that they actually tried, and I appreciate that. They just shouldn't really have been trying on this type of film, but their efforts made it better than one would expect. It's still not good, though, due to the source material and the script that it caused. 6.1/10, okay, one thumb down, average, etc.
What other families should know
Great messages
Teen, 14 years old Written bydoubleE February 1, 2014
age 12+
 

AWFUL

What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Parent Written byDan G. February 1, 2014
age 18+
 

Entertaining for adults, too sexually explicity for children

This film is told from the viewpoint of a 13 year old boy who witnesses his mother jump into bed and (loudly) have repeated sexual relations with a stranger she has known for less than two days and who is an escaped murderer. This, of course, plays with his mind, as he knows exactly what irresponsible things his mother is doing with the stranger who now lives with her, and is struggling with his own awakening sexual desires and how to handle them.
What other families should know
Too much sex

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