Sunday, April 27, 2014

Video review: "Labor Day"

Normally I’m not the sort to engage in I’m-right-and-you’re-wrong type of critical demagoguery. Different people have varying reactions to movies, and everyone’s entitled to own their own opinion.

But in the case of “Labor Day,” a critically savaged drama that bombed at the box office, I truly believe a lot of people missed the boat. Badly.

Based on the novel by Joyce Maynard and adapted for the screen by writer/director Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air”), it’s the tale of a runaway murderer who escapes from prison and takes an isolated mother and her young son hostage over the titular weekend. Their victim/hostage relationship quickly evolves into a more sympathetic dynamic, with the boy looking up to the convict as a replacement father figure, and his mother finding a sense of intimacy she thought lost to her forever.

While some found this storyline too bizarre, the cast and crew maintain a careful balance in tone that renders the drama believable and engaging. Josh Brolin has a quiet, sad grace as Frank, the would-be protagonist, and Kate Winslet shows her considerable range as the meek, wounded Adele. Gattlin Griffith is terrific as her inquisitive son, Henry, who acts more as her caretaker than vice-versa.

Give “Labor Day” a chance now that it’s out on video. On this one, everybody’s wrong and I’m right!

Video extras are decent, and include a feature-length commentary track by Reitman, cinematographer Eric Steelberg and producer Jason Blumenfeld. It’s a pity it doesn’t include the principle cast members, since this is the sort of the film that’s entirely reliant on the performances for its success.

You also get a making-of documentary and some deleted scenes.

You’ll have to buy the Blu-ray edition to get all this stuff, however; the DVD comes with exactly zilch by way of extra features.



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