Labor Day

Have you ever felt manipulated by a screenplay? I have... Writer/director Jason Reitman ("Up in the Air"), working with Joyce Maynard's novel, really knows how to manipulate us. At the beginning we are hesitant, particularly in the early scenes, which threaten to become mawkish (yeah, the peach pie); but soon, through flashbacks, we come to under- stand our characters, and the film suddenly becomes unpredictable and involving. Nice switch!

We watch:
  • Kate Winslet ("Contagion") as Adele, the clinically depressed mother who is forced to shelter an escaped convict in order to protect her son.
  • Josh Brolin ("Gangster Squad") plays Frank, a felon who escaped from the hospital where he had an emergency appendectomy. He tells her "things aren't like they seem."
  • Gattlin Griffith ("Green Lantern") is Henry, the boy is struggling to help his mother, who is practically agoraphobic. He sorts through bits of information gleaned from her, a classmate, and his father, who has remarried and has a second family.
  • Maika Monroe ("The Bling Ring") is Mandy, the classmate, overflowing with youthful theories about life, love, sex and family dynamics.
  • Clark Gregg ("Much Ado About Nothing") is Gerald, Adele's former husband. He knows he has let down his son Henry and regrets it.
  • James Van Der Beek (Lots of TV) is the ultra-helpful Officer Treadwell. If only he weren't quite so diligent...
  • Tobey Maguire ("The Great Gatsby") is the adult Henry.
The casting of the younger versions of our main characters is extremely good, with the glaring exception of Toby Maguire as the adult Henry. The first couple of flashbacks confused me; until I realized that we were seeing flashbacks for BOTH of the lead characters.  Duh....

This is PG-13, so expect some mildly sensual situations (no nudity), little or no profanity, the presence of a gun but the only gunshots are off screen and, as I recall, harmless. The screening audience, defying more "artistic" critics, applauded this one.
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Here is the trailer:
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