LABOR DAY (NC16)
112 minutes/Opens on Thursday/**
The story: An injured Frank Chambers (Josh Brolin) approaches 13-year-old Henry (Gattlin Griffith) for help at the mall. His divorced mother Adele (Kate Winslet) reluctantly agrees to take him back to their home and it is eventually revealed that Frank is an escaped prisoner on the run.
He remains at their house over the course of the Labor Day holiday weekend in 1987 as the local police seek to track him down. Based on the 2009 novel of the same name by Joyce Maynard.
Call me cynical, but when you have an escaped prisoner in your home, that is not the time to be letting down your guard.
Not even when the runaway in question happens to be Frank Chambers, a man who is clearly gunning for Escaped Prisoner Of The Year, possibly of all time. He makes himself useful as the man about the house - cleaning out rain gutters, fixing the wheezy car and even bonds with Henry over baseball.
Instead of a sensuously tactile pottery-making scene (see Ghost, 1990), there is a tactile scene brimming with family wholesomeness as the three of them make pie together - even as there is a hint of a nascent attraction between Adele and Frank.
The movie is really a portrayal of Stockholm syndrome taken to a ludicrous extent. Not only do the hostages come to care for their captor, Adele actually falls for him. From trying to get him out of the house as soon as possible, she begins to suggest that he should stay on until his injury heals.
That the laughable premise is not completely unbelievable is due to the decent cast.
Brolin (True Grit, 2010) has to go from exuding a sense of menace to, essentially, playing a romantic lead.
The transition is still jarring, but it could have been worse. And it is no surprise that when his past is told through flashbacks, we learn that his biggest crime was being gullible - which would be our crime, too, if we bought into the idea touted here that all Adele needs is a real man, defined in the most cliched manner here.
Winslet's portrayal of her role with an admirable touching vulnerability is wasted.
Coming from director Jason Reitman, who has helmed smarter and funnier works such as Thank You For Smoking (2005), Juno (2007) and Up In The Air (2009), Labor Day feels disappointingly like drudge work.
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