Labor Day, film review: Kate Winslet excellent as tormented mother
Jason Reitman, 111 mins Starring: Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Tobey Maguire, Tom Lipinski
Labor Day is a beautifully crafted, evocative and very well acted coming-of-age story which is just a little bit... preposterous. On a second viewing, you can’t help but notice its many improbabilities.
Josh Brolin plays escaped convict Frank Chambers, a better-looking, more rugged version of Magwitch from Great Expectations, who lays low over Labor Day weekend in the home of single mom Adele Wheeler (Kate Winslet) and her adolescent son, Henry (Gattlin Griffith.)
Frank is an alpha male but one in touch with his feminine side. Although he is badly injured and on the run from the law, he still manages to wax the floor, fix the car, bake a peach pie and teach the neighbour’s wheelchair-bound son how to play baseball.
Inevitably, after such a display around the house, Adele falls in love with him. They do the laundry together. He irons and, in return, she teaches him rumba.
We learn Frank’s back story – he is a Vietnam veteran who accidentally killed his wife – in sketchy, impressionistic flashbacks. The plotting never quite stacks up. If you were a hardened criminal, on the run from the law, would you really spend so much time on planning a barbecue?
The film is adapted from a novel by Joyce Maynard (who, as a young woman, had an affair with J D Salinger). It has a self-conscious, dream-like quality. Its narrator, Henry (played as an adult by Tobey Maguire), is remembering a few happy days during an otherwise unhappy childhood.
Winslet is excellent as his beautiful and tormented mother. “I could feel her terrible loneliness and longing before I had a name for it,” Henry says of her in the tremulous voice-over that sets up the film.
Brolin is very strong, too, as the stranger she falls in love with. Some of the writing here is novelettish (“there’s another kind of hunger – the hunger for human touch.”) The film, though, is best taken as a nostalgic fantasy – an attempt on Henry’s part to conjure up the mother he adored and the father figure he never really had.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Cheeky' Nando's under fire for apparently coming onto a customer on Twitter
- 2 Saudi Arabia mosque bombing: Two volunteer security guards hailed as heroes for stopping Isis suicide bomber reaching worshippers
- 3 Playboy model April Summers speaks out about being a victim of revenge porn
- 4 There is something wrong but very right about this Bible illustration
- 5 iPhone 'effective power' text: how to be safe from iOS bug that lets people crash your phone
Jay Z's Tidal could be about to lose Beyonce's music in ultimate humiliation
Royal Academy of Arts' Tim Marlow: Bronze statue of lovers embracing at St Pancras station is a lesson in 'how not to do' public art
Britain's Hardest Grafter: Petition set up as Twitter reacts to BBC 'poverty porn' series pitting low-paid workers against each other
Britain's Got Talent 2015: Jamie Raven divides Twitter as fans expose mind-boggling magic trick
Big Brother contestant Aaron Frew removed from house for 'inappropriate behaviour' after flashing fellow contestants
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'