Labor Day

Critics Consensus

Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin make for an undeniably compelling pair, but they can't quite rescue Labor Day from the pallid melodrama of its exceedingly ill-advised plot.



Total Count: 197


Audience Score

User Ratings: 20,565
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Movie Info

"Labor Day" centers on 13-year-old Henry Wheeler, who struggles to be the man of his house and care for his reclusive mother Adele while confronting all the pangs of adolescence. On a back-to-school shopping trip, Henry and his mother encounter Frank Chambers, a man both intimidating and clearly in need of help, who convinces them to take him into their home and later is revealed to be an escaped convict. The events of this long Labor Day weekend will shape them for the rest of their lives. --(C) Paramount


Josh Brolin
as Frank Chambers
Kate Winslet
as Adele Wheeler
Gattlin Griffith
as Henry Wheeler
Tobey Maguire
as Adult Henry Wheeler/Narrator
James Van Der Beek
as Officer Treadwell
Tom Lipinski
as Frank Chambers (young)
J.K. Simmons
as Mr. Jervis
Dylan Minnette
as Henry (16)
Maika Monroe
as Mandy Chambers
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Critic Reviews for Labor Day

All Critics (197) | Top Critics (51) | Fresh (69) | Rotten (128)

Audience Reviews for Labor Day

  • Jun 27, 2014
    It's sort of like "Revolutionary Road", only, you know, not nearly as good. I joke, but Kate Winslet's character is named Adele, which makes you think of a figure of sad stuff enough when you don't think about how this Adele's last name is Wheeler, as in April Wheeler... as in "Revolutionary Road". I seem to be the only one who can emotionally stand "Revolutionary Road" enough to watch it enough time to memorize the characters' names, but either way, the fact of the matter is that it's getting to where you know something sorry is going to go down if Kate Winslet is playing a mother. Shoot, it's getting to where Josh Brolin brings gloom wherever he goes, as well, so this ought to be a heavy melodrama, although it is directed and written by Jason Reitman, so it should have some colorful dialogue along the way. He dealt with the spokesman of something as vile as cigarettes in "Thank You for Smoking", with teenage pregnancy in "Juno", with a lonely downsizer in "Up in the Air", and with a woman child in "Young Adult", yet he's finally taking things seriously through, of all things, a film about a woman... with depression whose home is threatened when she falls in love with a convict. Okay, maybe this story is a little brutally serious, but, again, as decent as it is, it hardly comes close to getting the job done like "Revolutionary Road", for a number of reasons. The film touches on elements which it could have explored with a certain freshness, but instead, storytelling devolves into tropes so deeply that it feels almost like some kind of a TV melodrama in plotting formula, alone, resulting in a predictability which leaves you with not much to soak in beyond the natural shortcomings of this type of story. There's plenty of potential juice to this dramatic storyline, so much so that I can kind of see reward value within the highlights, of which there aren't enough to overshadow the thinness of this perhaps overly intimate portrait on a family's protection of and being cared for by a stranger of questionable trustworthiness, resulting in a minimalism that, as one can imagine, shouldn't exactly be molded into a two-hour-long film. Pacing is ultimately one of the most troubled aspects of the film, as Jason Reitman's screenplay relies heavily on repetitious filler whose inconsequentiality is stressed by the subtlety of the material, until the final product falls into a sense of aimlessness that is exacerbated by a sense of atmospheric momentum's dipping under the weight of dull dry spells. Of course, when atmosphere finally does perk up, you are quickly reminded of Reitman's lack of experience as a dramatic storyteller, for although he has his moments, too often he places tension, or sentimentality, or even liveliness in the wrong places, resulting in a glaring atmospheric unevenness that makes the tonal extremes feel even more abrasive. The film gets to be contrived in its tone, and considering that so much of the dragging is so extreme, long periods of atmospheric bite just wear you out after a while, reflecting a borderline incompetence in dramatic storytelling on Reitman's part which calls your attention to the questionable dramatics on the part of story author Joyce Maynard, who, for all of her genuinely intriguing story writing, plagues the story with melodrama, and the characters with questionable actions and motivations which thin down their sense of genuineness about as much as thin characterization within Reitman's script. Whether it be because of too much of an ambition to flesh out dramatic tension, or because of too much laziness, a lot of this film is lacking in dimension, sometimes seriously, thus, the final product falls, not simply quite a ways short of its potential, but deeper into underwhelmingness than it probably should, given the effectiveness of its more inspired moments. That means that if this film didn't watch its steps in certain key areas, then it perhaps could have fallen into mediocrity as a somewhat flat melodrama, yet for every element belonging to a misfire, there is an element belonging to a more inspired film, thus, the final product, while hardly rewarding, has its highlights, particularly artistic ones. Rolfe Kent's heavily atmospheric scoring style is, of course, abused by Jason Reitman's more unsubtle direction, resulting in tonal abrasions that wear down on you even more once the score becomes a tad monotonous and overdrawn in its keeping faithful to the draggier moments in storytelling's formula, but it's still genuinely beautiful, perhaps even haunting in its tasteful and subtle fusion of brood and color which plays a major part in selling some of the more effective moments of the drama, and is arguably more inspired than the film itself. Eric Steelberg's cinematography is decidedly more inspired than the film itself, because even though you sort of get used to the drama's visual style of little dynamicity, crisp, rich lighting and definition to the palette is consistently handsome, and when it falls over some kind of surprisingly artistic visuals, it's truly breathtaking. The film's artistic value is being seriously underappreciated, as the film's musical and visual styles truly stand out, which is ironic to me, because, honestly, I was expecting this film to be more a of a vehicle for dramatic proficiency than aesthetic value. Alas, Jason Reitman fumbles the ball with this, his debut as a full dramatic filmmaker, and yet, as uneven and overbearing as he gets to be as a directorial storyteller, when he hits his moments of realization to the placement of artistic and dramatic weight in the proper context, the film resonates, with anything from tension to resonance, in order to do justice to worthy subject matter. The story is so bogged down by conventions, histrionics and thin characterization that it ultimately feels kind of like it belongs to a Lifetime film, but at least one of the better ones, as much of a back-handed compliment as that sounds, dealing with compelling themes regarding finding love, care and family in dangerous places, and the importance of the truth, which are handled with questionable subtlety more often than not, but never within the portrayal of the characters who stand as the heart of this drama. Although material is limited, most everyone does what he or she can, and that particularly, perhaps even solely goes for the leads, with young Gattlin Griffith capturing the emotional sensitivity and sense of building maturity and fear in a young man who comes of age through bonds with a man on the run, while Kate Wislet and Josh Brolin, with effective chemistry and individual dramatic performances, sell a sense of finding new life in adults trying to run away from their prisons, both figurative and literal. These performances carry the film through a lot, and stand among several aspects that could have carried the final product a long, long way, through all of the grime which ultimately holds the drama back, yet there is still enough inspiration to get the effort by as a fair affair. When the day is done, there's hardly anything new, and not much of anything especially meaty to this story, whose draggy, tonally uneven and abrasive, and melodramatic interpretation hold the final product a ways back, but no so far back that haunting score work, gorgeous cinematography, moving directorial highlights, and strong performances by Gattlin Griffith, Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin fail to save "Labor Day" is a decent and sometimes effective, if often rather messy dramatic breakout for Jason Reitman. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Jun 17, 2014
    There must be better books deserving to be turned into movie format.
    familiar s Super Reviewer
  • Jun 14, 2014
    The premise of this movie sounds decent. A single mom(Kate Winsley) and her son are being held hostage, sort of, by an escaped convict(Josh Brolin). He hides out at their place and he and Winslet fall in love. It reminded me of a Clint Eastwood movie called "A Perfect World". Only that movie wasn't slow and boring, and it actually went somewhere. This doesn't. A lot of it doesn't make any sense, and it's very melodramatic. It took Emily and I 2 nights to finish it, and when it was over we both just shrugged our shoulders and went "meh". Winslet and Brolin are both good, but the material here just isn't very strong. You don't care what happens to them by the end of the movie. I'm sure there are a lot of women who like this movie, it is ultimately a chick flick. But guys, it's not worth the time for ya.
    Everett J Super Reviewer
  • Jun 10, 2014
    This surprisingly good drama is based on the novel of the same name by Joyce Maynard. It was announced in 2009 that the film would be directed by Jason Reitman, and two years later it was announced that Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin committed to star as the film's leads Adele and Frank, respectively. I am grateful for those choices, because this was one of the most complex roles I've seen Kate Winslet performing the best possible way! Do not get fooled by the 33% from the RT critics, because the story of Adele Wheeler (Kate Winslet) who is a depressed single mom living in a rural home with her 13-year-old son, Henry (Gattlin Griffith) was an interesting and moving one. By chance they meet Frank Chambers (Josh Brolin), a convict who is wanted by the local police after breaking out of jail hospital. Through flashbacks, it is revealed that Frank is a Vietnam veteran who returned home and married his pregnant girlfriend, Mandy (Maika Monroe), who soon gave birth, but wasn't really a marriage material. A year after the baby's birth, Frank and Mandy had a fight, where she unintentionally revealed that he isn't the baby's father. During the fight, he accidentally pushed her against a radiator, resulting in her death. Simultaneously, the baby drowned and Frank was sent to jail for Mandy's murder... The film is full with emotion and episodes where you could be overwhelmed with sadness or joy, and too many critics took that for melodramatic clichés, which they could be if we didn't have the excellent directing and outstanding acting of a couple which was perfectly casted! With them, everything seemed natural and logical, from hidden sexual charge to initially innocent events which will cost Frank his freedom! Lovely piece of work!
    Panta O Super Reviewer

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