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Labor Day (2013)

Paramount Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 4/29/2014

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/1/2014

If you look at his filmography, Ivan Reitman has had a pretty diverse career. While we think of him as making comedies, even within that realm he has tried many things. From the supernatural (Ghostbusters) to the juvenile (Meatballs) to action (Kindergarten Cop) to the political (Dave, Legal Eagles), Reitman has tried many different things and many of this films has been successful. But, given the amount of movies he's made, it's no surprise that he's had some miscues. It seems that Ivan's son Jason Reitman is attempting to follow in his father's footsteps and try many different genres. And just like his father, he's made some movies which weren't very good. His latest, Labor Day, certainly falls into that category.

In Labor Day, we meet Henry (Gattlin Griffith), an adolescent who lives with his mother, Adele (Kate Winslet). Henry's parents are divorced and he sometimes visits his father (Clark Gregg), but Henry doesn't really get along with his dad's new family. So, Henry must cope with his mother's severe depression and apparent agoraphobia. As they make their monthly pilgrimage to the store for food and supplies, Henry is accosted by Frank (Josh Brolin), an escaped convict who has just had surgery. Frank convinces (?) Adele to take him home. Once there, the trio begin an odd odyssey which transpires over the long Labor Day weekend. Despite learning from the news that Frank was convicted of murder, Adele and Henry have no fear of this man, and with the absence of a male presence in the house, they begin to take on a family dynamic. But, Frank is still on the lam and he plans to head for Canada as soon as he can. However, Adele has begun to develop feelings for him, and Henry isnít sure what to do.

Sometimes, an announcement is simply an announcement, but we canít help but read into things. In November, 2013, Paramount announced that it was canceling Labor Dayís holiday opening and would open the film wide in January after a brief Oscar-qualifying run at the end of 2013. From the outside, the film looked like a contender given the cast and the presence of four-time Oscar nominee Reitman. So, this sudden move certainly didnít seem to bode well for the film. When it was released, the movie did a very quick death at the box office. Therefore, the question is, what went wrong?

The answer is, a lot. Thereís nothing worse than a movie which loses me from the outset and Labor Day fits the bill. When Frank approaches Henry and Adele, they are in a crowded store and heís not armed. They could have easily walked away from him or called for help, but they didnít. I supposed that one could argue that Henry was young and naive and Adele was too damaged to argue, but Iím not buying it. The other major plothole, of many, concerns Frankís plan to make Adele and Henry look like victims -- He will tie them up so that if anyone comes in the house, they will appear to be hostages. This idea falls apart, as many people see both Adele and Henry out and about in the town. This movie isnít all that engaging to begin with, but things like this really pulled me out of the story.

My wife was reluctant to watch Labor Day because she was afraid that the romance angle wouldnít fly. And she was right. Again, yes, we get it, Adele didnít take the divorce very well and she is a lonely woman. Still, the idea that she would immediately fall for this ruggedly handsome convict is very archaic and itís terribly difficult to swallow. This notion is only magnified by the fact that the movie comes from a filmmaker who has made intelligent movies like Thank You for Smoking and Up in the Air. Labor Day is asking us to suddenly buy into a story which has seemed to have wandered in from the Harlequin Romance section and it makes a Nicholas Sparks tale look positively complex. And Adele isnít the only one to blame here. Henry is so ďstarved for male companionshipĒ that after a simple game of catch heís ready to make Frank a part of the family. For Godís sake, had the local chapter of Big Brothers shut down?

As far as Iím concerned, these elements destroy the filmís credibility, but I can still see how some hopeless romantics could still buy into it. But, I donít know how anyone could get through the pie scene with a straight face. For reasons unknown to us, Frank is a master pastry chef (this isnít explained in his flashbacks) and he entertains and educates Adele and Henry by making a peach pie. Do what? This sequence is quite detailed and it goes on and on. Clearly, this is meant to be the turning point where the ďfamilyĒ begins to gel, but the whole thing is ludicrous. And not just because this family which can barely make it to the store just happens to have all of the ingredients which Frank needs to make anything that he wants.

I know Iím not the first person to say that Kate Winslet should have known better...but she really should have. Perhaps it was the appeal of a part where she got to be dowdy the whole time. While I liked some parts of the aforementioned Thank You for Smoking and Up in the Air, Iíve never been a fan of Jason Reitman and following the disappointing Young Adult, his career is in a tailspin. If one can get past the ridiculous story and the melodrama, you still wonít find much to like. The story drags and the ending reveals a cameo which doesnít really jibe with the rest of the movie. Do yourself a favor and donít induce Labor Day.

Labor Day makes recovering from surgery look very easy on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 32 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing just a hint of grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good, but I noted that a few shots were slightly soft. The depth is acceptable as well. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Being a quiet drama, we donít get many dynamic effects here. There are some nice stereo effects, which illustrate sounds coming from off-screen. Street scenes provide mild surround sound effects, and a booming knock at the door brings in the bass channel.

The Labor Day Blu-ray Disc contains just a few extras. We being with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Jason Reitman, Director of Photography Eric Steelberg, and First Assistant Director/Co-Producer Jason Blumenfeld. "End of Summer: Making Labor Day" (29 minutes) is a fairly in-depth featurette which offers interviews and comments from Reitman, the principal cast, and author Joyce Maynard. The speakers talk about their involvement with the film, the themes, the characters, and the production. We get a nice amount of on-set footage, and an overview of the location shooting. The Disc contains six DELETED SCENES which run about 11 minutes. This does give us an additional scene with JK Simmons.

Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long