Labor Day Blu-rayLabor Day is a quiet movie about an extraordinary event that occurs as a young man is growing up and finding his way in the world. It’s a lonely movie, about a mother and her son who feel very out of tune with the rest of the world and who inexplicably begin to awaken once a stranger enters their lives.
We’re introduced to Henry Wheeler (Gattlin Griffith) through a lovely sequence narrated by Tobey Maguire that explains the young man’s relationship with his mother, Adele (Kate Winslet). Henry’s father, Gerald (Clark Gregg), left some time prior to the events of the film to start a new family. Because of this, Henry has taken on many of the traditional male household roles. When a known fugitive named Frank (Josh Brolin) enters their lives, his appearance during Labor Day weekend offers a breath of fresh air in a stuffy household, as well as an intimate look into life behind closed doors.
Labor Day was initially a book written by Joyce Maynard, and the novel’s setup makes for trouble in the film, with plenty of backstory. Tobey Maguire has to narrate the film so that we understand where the characters are coming from. Flashbacks have to be employed so we understand how the main characters used to feel and behave. Still, despite the oddball setup of the novel and its many troubled expository devices, Labor Day is a worthwhile venture.
Mostly the film works because its characters have emotional depth. Young Henry is bright-eyed and go with the flow, open to new changes in his world. It’s Kate Winslet who steals scenes playing an emotionally broken woman who learns to find joy in unexpected chances and moments. Poor Brolin has the most interesting character but is stuck playing second fiddle.
It’s not easy to pin Labor Day into a box and describe what kind of story it is. It’s a coming-of-age narrative and a romance, an awakening story and a drama. It’s all of these things and more. It’s not the best movie, you’ll see all year, but credit should go to Jason Reitman for trying his hand at something unexpected and more or less, pulling it off.
Best Special Feature:
The extras, like Labor Day itself, are quietly compelling. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but fans of Jason Reitman should enjoy the articulate way the director explains his ideas during the commentary, but especially the "Making of" segment. While the deleted scenes are mostly a bust, there is interesting information about the timeline of the film’s creation, as well as interesting input from the cast.
Other Bonus Features:
Commentary by Jason Reitman, directory of photography Eric Steelberg and first assistant director co-producer Jason Blumenfeld
"End of Summer: Making Labor Day"