Director Jason Reitman’s last film, black comedy Young Adult, was deliciously sour; his new movie, coming-of-age tale cum romantic melodrama Labor Day, is altogether sweeter.
The prospect of Josh Brolin as a hunky escaped con who lights up the life of depressed single mom Adele (Kate Winslet) and her sensitive teenage son Henry (Gattlin Griffith) will probably tickle a lot of taste buds, although those who enjoyed the sardonic pleasures of Reitman’s previous films – including Juno and Up in the Air – may be left wrinkling their noses by his change of direction.
Indeed, those not generously disposed to the film – adapted by Reitman from Joyce Maynard’s best selling novel and set in 1987 – could well find it teetering on the brink of self-parody now and then, especially during a sensual spot of peach pie baking that irresistibly – and almost risibly – recalls the potter’s wheel episode from Ghost.
Brolin’s injured fugitive is the one with the dab baker’s hands, having used a mix of bluff, charm and menace to cajole Adele and Henry into taking him home after he runs into them in a store during his escape. Yet as soon as he arrives at the house he turns out to be a total paragon, repairing the car, fixing a squeaky hinge, waxing floors, teaching baseball and, yes, baking a peach pie that would have Mary Berry licking her lips.
As the holiday weekend of the title unfolds, however, it’s the emotional succour he offers rather than his prowess with a cake that allows the heartbroken Adele’s spirits to rise. ‘I came to save you, Adele,’ he soothingly declares, while intermittent flashbacks fill us in on the duo’s tragic pasts.
A large pinch of salt, Frank declares, is vital in his pie making and you will certainly need one if you are going to swallow the film’s overcooked romance, although Winslet and Brolin’s terrific acting means that it will all slip down easily if you do.
Certificate 12A. Runtime 111 mins. Director Jason Reitman.
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