Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Ever since hearing the soundtrack by Rolfe Kent and seeing the promotional trailers for the movie Labor Day, I have wanted to see the film. The movie seemed to have an interesting and moving storyline, but would it stand up to the hype...especially about a scene involving peach pie? Last Saturday, I finally got the chance to see it in the theaters and find out for myself.
Labor Day stars Gattlin Griffith as Henry Wheeler, a thirteen-year-old boy worried about his ever-increasingly more depressed mother. After her husband (Clark Gregg) left her, Adele Wheeler (Kate Winslet) has been less and less inclined to leave the house, leaning more and more on her son for moments of happiness. There are times that Henry believes he will lose his mother to severe depression, but something that happens over Labor Day weekend in 1987 threatens to take away even more.
As he prepares for his high school years and struggles with puberty, Henry realizes that he needs a few things for school, specifically clothes as he has outgrown everything. Adele timidly takes Henry on a rare trip to the local Price Mart to pick up supplies. They only planned on picking up something other than clothes, food and household supplies, but end up picking up a little bit extra: one escaped convict named Frank Chambers (Josh Brolin).
Polite, but rough around the edges, Chambers both frightens and intrigues Adele and Henry. He frightens them enough to go along with his "suggestion" that they take him home with them so he can rest up from the injuries incurred while escaping prison. Then he intrigues them by not only cooking them dinner, but gently feeding the cooked meal to Adele who he is forced to tie up to protect her from the nasty charge of harboring an escaped convict.
As the weekend moves on, Chambers begins to make himself useful in the Wheeler house, fixing broken things around the home, teaching Henry how to throw and hit a baseball and teaching Adele and Henry how to bake a peach pie. Henry begins to look up to Frank Chambers and Adele begins to warm up to him in another way. Despite the crimes he has been convicted of, Frank Chambers manages to win over the family by mending Adele's broken heart. Adele and Frank begin to think of living a life together.
Unfortunately, events conspire against them as a new girl in town gives Henry the impression that the new man in his life may be plotting to get rid of him so he can spend more time with his mother. Doubts are sown and hard to get rid of. The longer Frank lingers in the Wheeler home, the more dangerous things become. Can Frank, Adele and Henry find happiness on the run together or will doubts and secrets threaten to tear their newfound happiness to shreds?
Labor Day is one of those films that I would consider a bit of a sleeper hit. The romantic drama is also a coming of age film that finds its way into theaters long after the Oscar nominations have been announced. This is supposed to be a slow time for movies...a time where movies are sent to theaters to make whatever they can with whatever audience is available and not worrying about the leftover bills and lack of income in the slow month of February. And yet, the storyline presented in the movie trailers is so intriguing...and sometimes steamy...that you find you have to go to the theaters to find out just what happens in this film.
First, I just want to say that the much hyped peach pie scene wasn't all that steamy. Critics made it sound like the scene in which Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze get extremely romantic while playing with clay in Ghost. This is nothing like that. Sure, there is a closeness between Adele and Frank in this scene, but the steamier scenes are found throughout the rest of the film. After all, it is Labor Day weekend and the Wheelers don't seem to have air conditioning. There is always a thin sheen of sweat on the couple. The extra steaminess comes from the close proximity of the couple as Frank teaches Adele how to hit a baseball, as we observe the look on Frank's face while gazing at Adele, as we watch Frank feed Adele, as we watch him tie her up ever so gently so as not to chaff her skin yet still give the appearance that she is being held captive. These scenes are much more steamy and Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin have a definite chemistry between them.
I enjoyed watching Henry grow up right in front of us over a span of four days. This kid receives quite an education over Labor Day weekend, especially from scene stealer Brighid Fleming as Eleanor, the new bad girl that has just moved to town. I also enjoyed that the movie didn't just end at the events of Labor Day weekend and that the ending, though predictable, did contain a slight surprise twist and an appearance by Tobey Maguire as Henry all grown up.
Do I believe that the movie was a tad predictable? Sure, I just said it was, but I enjoyed the story anyway. Why? Because, as folks know, February is also the month in which romance is celebrated and Labor Day is definitely a movie containing a steamy love affair that seems all that more steamier for the things that happen behind closed doors that are implied but never actually seen.