Leo found Labor Day just wasn’t working
You all know the story: Boy meets girl. Boy kidnaps girl and her dead-behind-the-eyes son. Boy feeds girl chilli. Romance ensues. Frank (Josh Brolin) is an escaped prisoner, who ends up hiding out in lonely single mother, Adele’s (Kate Winslet), house. Originally he manages to get her to cooperate by threatening her son, but eventually they fall in love because she’s been longing for a man, and he’s actually one of those nice convicted murderers who knows how to make pie. I wish I could say that the film has a better reason for the two of them to end up doing the horizontal fandango, but honestly, Adele seems to be won over purely by the fact that Frank’s a damn fine chef. Although, this does lead to a moment of completely unintentional hilarity when Adele eats a scone that Frank has made and looks at him like he’s the second coming of Christ, which was the highlight of the film for me, so I can’t complain too much.
This painfully contrived love story, along with a myriad of subplots that are introduced and then never mentioned again means that watching Labor Day is only slightly more entertaining than actually going into labour. The film doesn’t really seem to be able to decide what it wants to be about, flicking aimlessly between being a story of star-crossed lovers, a pensive look at the mental effects of infertility, and a coming of age story about Adele’s son going through puberty. Sometimes the various plots don’t even let the previous one finish before leaping straight into their own. Halfway through a an early scene where Frank is just beginning his courtship/home invasion, there was suddenly a flashback to Adele and her son having a conversation about sex that definitely veered into Oedipal territory. The film then cuts straight back to the ongoing hostage situation as if nothing has happened. The audience looks baffled, and I check my watch before sighing because there’s still an hour and a half left of this s**t.
What annoyed me most about this film though, is that’s it’s just plain sexist. Throughout we get these constant references to how Adele has been unable to do anything with her life now that she doesn’t have a man around the house, seeing as her previous husband left her for his secretary. She is portrayed as an absolute mess, relying on her son to do things like getting money from the bank and buying groceries. Fortunately, all that changes when Frank comes along and fixes everything. It seems like at this point we’re meant to realise that Adele actually just needed a man to look after her all this time, because lord knows this woman can’t possibly look after a house, maintain a social life, raise her son properly or feel in any way satisfied with her life if she hasn’t got a man to do all of that for her. Even her issues with her infertility are only eventually dealt with because Frank reveals to her that it doesn’t bother him, teaching us that important life lesson that you should only be ok with your body if the person you love has said that it’s ok to be.
In the end, this film just plays out as a long, boring advert for both the nuclear family and Stockholm syndrome. If those two things happen to be just exactly what you want in a movie, you’ll probably enjoy this. If not, I’d give it a miss and save yourself a laborious two hours.