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"Labor Day": This Drifter Is Your New Daddy! 

Wednesday, Jan 29 2014

Baking a peach pie is the key to a woman's heart — and a boy's coming-of-age — in Labor Day, a howlingly embarrassing misfire about a 1987 holiday-weekend hostage crisis. Divorced New England shut-in Adele (Kate Winslet) and her son Henry (Gattlin Griffith) share a not-so-subtle Oedipal bond that's complicated when the two, while out at the store, are confronted by Frank (Josh Brolin), who, having just escaped from a prison where he was serving an 18-year murder sentence, forces them to shelter him at their house. No sooner has Frank taken up residence than he's fixing their car and doing their laundry, which turns on the desperate-for-passion Adele and confuses Henry, who wants to be the man of the house, but is stymied by an early these-pants-don't-fit scene. Working from Joyce Maynard's novel, writer/director Jason Reitman (Juno) stages one ludicrous scene after another, most involving blunt talk about sex and/or phallic rolling pins, socket wrenches, and baseball bats. Reitman directs everything with an exaggerated breathlessness that's matched by his cast's uniformly unconvincing, over-the-top performances. Between awkwardly shoehorned-in flashbacks that show Frank to be a victim as much as a criminal, cornball narration from the adult Henry (Tobey Maguire), and contrived twists of fate concerning cops, a young love interest for Henry, and an abused handicapped kid, Labor Day piles on the absurd melodrama — none of it more unintentionally silly than the aforementioned pie-making, which proves an allegorical sequence equal parts overcooked, sickly sweet, and mushy.

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Nick Schager


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