Labor Day

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Entertainment: +2

Content: +2

Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Toby Maguire, Dylan Minnette, James Van Der Beek, Maika Monroe, Gattlin Griffith, Clark Gregg. Written & directed by Jason Reitman.

FILM SYNOPSIS: 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. 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 in 1987 will shape them for the rest of their lives.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Iím mixed concerning this production. On the one hand, it is replete with dynamic dialogue and involving performances. On the other, it goes past a comfortable suspension of disbelief. To explain the filmís incredulousness, I must first offer up a spoiler alert. My problems with the story will be explored in the final paragraph. So, if you intend on attending, be warned, the final paragraph reveals much.

Itís not a bad film. Indeed, I think many people who enjoyed the book, will be pleased with the film adaptation. But for me, I never connected, emotionally.

The film examines anxiety, loneliness, the loss of love, and the hunger we all have for human touch. It deals with emotions rather than special effects and car chases. And in an era when movies seem to bombard us with excessive everything, itís nice to find a gentle film that explores the human condition. But when I say gentle, I must hasten to add that it also incorporates an underlining tension. Does this man have a darker nature than the woman and her son suspect? Is he a threat? There are moments when neither the boy nor his mom is sure of this invaderís intent. It keeps us wondering.

Itís a pleasure to view a film that purposely avoids the use of crude or obscene language. Rather, it uses dialogue to give us insight into the character of these three people. Alas, in a film that manages to avoid any obscenity, Jesusí name is misused. It only happens once, but why when the filmmakers are excluding provocative language do they allow our Saviorís name to be profaned? I keep hoping Hollywood will get the message that it offends many and that maybe someday theyíll rethink the disregard of spiritual matters. (Sadly, Christian moviegoers arenít sending that message.)

Tender Mercies from 1983 is my DVD alternative. Robert Duvall stars as a country singer on the skids until he gets his life together with the help of a religious widow and her son. This may sound like an odd choice for a reviewer who complains about the misuse of Godís name, as there are a couple of profanities during the opening scenes. But unlike Labor Day, which completely avoids God, Tender Mercies includes a need for spiritual recognition when struggling with lifeís problems. Rated PG, Oscars went to Duvall and writer Horton Foote for this convincing story of a man finding redemption. I love how people of faith are represented in this picture, honestly and contritely. It takes a gentle, magical touch by a screenwriter when addressing human emotions. If forced, you get a film like Labor Day (pun intended). Whereas, in Tender Mercies, the right chords are struck. Itís a thoughtful, moving and always entertaining cinematic effort. Mr. Duvall gives his best performance (along with that in the TV-movie Lonesome Dove).

SPOILER ALERT: Perhaps Iím being too logical, though I doubt it. If I were too logical, I wouldnít be watching movies, because most stretch our imaginations into outer space. But for a reclusive woman and a lonesome boy, no matter how desperate they are, to accept a stranger they learn to be a dangerous convict, makes the gentle moments laughable. When he finally suggests he and they vamoose to Canada in order to start a new life, with her taking all her money out of the bank, a red flag goes up. Maybe heís not all they think he is. Then thereís the neighbor lady who just walks into the house, a thank-you dessert in hand, only to find the convict alone; another warning shot is fired. Sheís seen his face on the news, but suddenly she just disappears from the story. Whereíd she go? Is she dead in the attic? Who knows? If sheís still alive, why hasnít she alerted the authorities? Then thereís the convict himself. Heís a true renaissance man, able to fix the car, repair the house, teach the boy how to catch, pitch and hold a baseball, bake a mean pie, and play the guitar, all by the end of day one. This guy does more by 9 a.m. than a Marine. If he just hadnít been sent to prison for accidently killing his adulterous wife, heíd be a pretty good candidate for man of the year. The film demands we accept a whole lot of ďifs.Ē More than I was willing to do.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: None

Obscene Language: None

Profanity: One misuse of Christís name.

Violence: A woman is struck and she hits her head when she falls to her death; an escaped convict holds a mother and son hostage in their home, but they are not harmed.

Sex: We see a brief sex situation, but it does not become overly graphic; two 13-year olds discus sexual matters.

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: None

Other: A baby is dead at birth, we see the mother holding the lifeless form Ė it was hard to view.

Running Time: 111 minutes
Intended Audience: Older teens and up

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