Commentary
5:00 am
Thu February 6, 2014

'Labor Day' Should Have Taken More Time

A long weekend should have been longer for Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet in 'Labor Day'
Credit rottentomatoes.com

Labor Day is a good movie badly damaged by a single fundamental mistake: Almost all the action is chronologically limited to one Labor-Day-extended weekend, and while the physical action may be credible over just three days, the psychological and human-relations developments are such as should have been allowed at least three months.

And this unhappy contrast is aggravated by what is maybe the best thing in the movie-- long, leisurely scenes that urge you to feel along with the characters, not just follow the wispy little plot. One key scene is so detailed you could take notes and go home and bake a peach pie from scratch, just from what you learn by watching.

If Labor Day would just quit pushing that three-day structure in your eye, it'd be a lot easier to appreciate the realistic psychological development of the main characters, who are all well acted with Kate Winslet as the widow lady, Gattlin Griffith as her teenage son, and Josh Brolin as the escaped convict who has to hide out in their house till the coast is clear.

That sounds like the old chestnut about the Stockholm Syndrome of relations with one's captor, but Labor Day is not the mere thriller it starts out looking like. Unfortunately, it takes too long to reveal its true nature as something else.

Among minor satisfactions, Labor Day has an oversophisticated adolescent played well by a newcomer named Brighid Fleming, who doesn't seem to have much to do with anything, but provides some comedy that this movie really needs.

Labor Day has some false endings. But as a whole, it's a good deal better than I had expected, and better than it starts out promising to be.