By Sandra Kraisirideja
“Labor Day” is an unconventional love story that is also a weird amalgamation of a coming-of-age story and a suspenseful mystery.
On paper those elements may not seem like they work together, but writer-director Jason Reitman found a way to make it work.
Reitman, who was nominated for a Best Screenplay and Best Director Oscar in 2010 for “Up in the Air,” seems to be drawn to complicated characters and stories. It makes sense that he would want to tackle a love story that is far from simple.
Based on the novel by Joyce Maynard, “Labor Day” tells the story of Adele and her son, Henry, who help Frank, an escaped convict, hide from the police over the long holiday weekend. Over the course of five days Adele and Henry form a bond with Frank that changes all of their lives.
The story takes place in 1987 and art director Mark Robert Taylor does an excellent job recreating the era, even down to the labels on the grocery items and ads in the stores.
The story unfolds gradually, with Reitman employing voiceover and flashbacks as narrative tools. A grown Henry, played by Tobey Maguire, serves as narrator.
Kate Winslet, who plays Adele, gives a wonderful performance as a woman who seems afraid of the whole world but puts on a brave face for her son. Josh Brolin is completely charming as Frank. He’s got the smoldering sexuality of Don Draper from “Mad Men” and that same mysteriousness.
There are going to be some women out there who disagree with me, but a lot of Frank’s appeal is that he does manly things, like fixing stuff around the house, repairing the car and playing catch with Henry in the backyard. Add to that his knowledge of baking and I couldn’t blame Adele for falling for him. This may seem horribly old-fashioned and backward-thinking but it’s just one woman’s opinion.
What is so touching about Adele and Frank falling in love is that they both experienced immense tragedy and heartbreak in their lives. It’s the kind of sadness that could easily fall into despair and they both see in each other a way back to living a life that isn’t stuck in the past.
I wouldn’t say “Labor Day” is an uplifting love story, but it is a wonderful reminder that it is possible to find love again.
“Labor Day” opens Jan. 31