This past weekend the Telluride Film Festival launched into its 40th Anniversary celebration with an appropriate prestige picture, Jason Reitman’s drama Labor Day.
Since its inception in 1974, Telluride has kept the informal tradition that new films must be shown for the first time in North America to be eligible for the Festival. Supported by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and the National Film Preserve, Telluride has premiered such widely acclaimed films as Louis Malle’s My Dinner With Andre, Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain, as well as Jason Reitman’s Juno and Up In The Air.
Labor Day is a faithful adaptation by Jason Reitman, who directs and wrote the screenplay, of Joyce Maynard’s 2009 book of the same name. According to Variety, Reitman’s passionate fifth feature left many in the audience in tears, as they connected with Kate Winslet’s (Revolutionary Road, Titanic) performance of Adele.
With a voice-over narration by Tobey Maguire (The Great Gatsby, Secretariat, Spiderman), Labor Day tells the story of Adele, a depressed (close to agoraphobic), divorced mother living with her son Henry, played by Gattlin Griffith (Changeling, Green Lantern, Couple’s Retreat). Mother and son are two lost souls longing for a meaningful connection. Set in the holiday last weekend of summer in 1987, Adele and Henry are shopping at the local big-box store when they are kidnapped by Frank, played by Josh Brolin (No Country For Old Men, W.) , an escaped convict/killer with some well-intentioned shenanigans up his sleeve. The tragedies that the trio share are multi-fold.
Frank immediately provides a much needed patriarchal figure for Henry, a boy that becomes a man all in one weekend. Henry is both protective of his mother and needing of male approval at the same time. For Adele, Frank provides the erotic tension provided by a man’s touch that she has been missing. Said Peter Debruge, Variety’s Senior Film critic, “Subtract the kidnapping, and Labor Day depicts the most romantic long weekend a divorced hausfrau could ever hope for.”
Though minimally reviewed to date, Labor Day is garnering positive buzz. William Goss of Film.com says, “The adaptation of Joyce Maynard’s Labor Day is as consistently assured a piece of filmmaking as we’ve ever seen from Jason Reitman”. Variety praises the Eric Steelberg cinematography as “elegantly sun-dappled shots that are ripe with nostalgia. What emerges is a powerful – if implausible – romance that builds to a series of emotional pay-offs that should elevate this moving weeper to a holiday sleeper”.
Labor Day was produced by Lianne Halfon, Russell Smith, Jason Reitman, and Helen Estabrook. Paramount and Indian Paint Brush Studios will release Labor Day (somewhat ironically) on December 25, 2013.