Friday, 14 March 2014

Review of Labor Day starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin

Labor Day, released in the UK on the 21st of March,  is a movie based on the novel by Joyce Maynard and reduced both me and my girlfriend to tears.  Directed by Jason Reitman, (the director of Juno, which I loved) It's the story of a doomed love affair between a convict (Josh Brolin as Frank Chambers) on the run, and a depressed, sensitive, quivering wreck of a single mother, Adele Wheeler played by Winslet. (We were both impressed that to convey the 'depressed mother,' Winslet appears at the beginning of the movie, with matted hair and scarcely any makeup).  It's set  In 1987, in rural America. Adele has been moping since her husband left her and lives with her 13-year-old son, Henry (Gattlin Griffith) who brings her coffee in the mornings and helps her put the car into gear when they leave the house - its what's known as a co-dependent relationship! While they are doing their monthly shopping trip (Adele is agrophobic) a bloody man approaches Henry and persuades or mildly forces him to introduce him to his mother and then he forces her to give him a lift. The man is revealed to be Frank Chambers, a convict who is wanted by the  police after jumping from the second floor of a hospital where he was sent to have his appendix out.

Bronlin first appears with a goatee, (which he apparently persuaded the producers he had to have to make him look more menacing) the point is though, that not once, did I think he was menacing or that he would do the mother and child any harm. He ties up Winslet, to look as though he's kidnapping her, but with pointedly suggestive shots of Winslet's ankle, as he's tying her, you know that he's already lusting after her, and they will inevitably fall in love.  The audience are given more and more signposts incase we don't get what's going on - a repetivtive ominous drum beat whenever we are meant to think that Frank could be re-caught and huge flashing signs about the burgeoning relationship between him and Winslet - close-ups of their sweaty bodies and a cliched scene of them all making a pie together, thrusting their hands together in a bowl of butter and flour.   My friend said it took her, "a very long time to engage with the characters and that she didn't believe they could fall in love so quickly."  I was taken in by their love affair though; Adele  had been alone for years, and needed the huge physical presence of a man like Bronlin who wanted to take care of her, to knock her out of her mood and there was also the fact that he had been wrongly imprisoned for years and without the love of a good woman.

Through flashbacks, it is revealed that Frank is a Vietnam veteran who returned home and married his pregnant girlfriend, Mandy (Maika Monroe), who soon gave birth. A year after the baby's birth, Frank and Mandy had a fight, where she unintentionally revealed that he isn't the baby's father. During the fight, he accidentally pushed her against a radiator, resulting in her death. Simultaneously, the baby drowned and Frank was sent to jail for Mandy's murder.

By the end of the film, I was hooked, really hoping that they would be able to  run away together and start a new life.  When that didn't happen, most of the people in the screening were crying and still crying when in the last few minutes when they are reunited many years later (I don't want to give too much away here, but perhaps I already have).  The performances from the three lead characters are excellent. We both wished their had been more scenes between Henry and his step-brother, very funny indeed, perfectly catching that awkward teen phase, when parents are SO annoying. I award 3 stars out of 5.

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