Mushy Labor Day Doesn't Work

Critics rip Jason Reitman's romantic melodrama
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 31, 2014 1:04 PM CST

Jason Reitman (Up In the Air, Juno) is a respected filmmaker, and Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin are respected performers. But critics definitely don't respect their new collaboration Labor Day, a melodramatic romance between a depressed single mother and an escaped convict, based on a Joyce Maynard novel. Here's what they're saying:

  • "Labor Day is an unintentional howl—a party movie begging for an audience armed with pie crusts, ropes, and a mean streak. It's so terrible it's amazing," writes David Edelstein at Vulture. Reitman "has labored (the title is apt) to make an American classic," but just wound up with unintentional camp. Edelstein did, at least, feel bad about laughing at Winslet, "who overacts with all her heart."
  • "Quick, somebody check Jason Reitman's house to see if the real man has been turned into dust by a body snatcher," Amy Nicholson at LA Weekly writes, because "Labor Day is so self-conscious and phony, it must be the work of a pod person." Brolin's character is "too flawless even for Hollywood fiction, sticking out of every scene like glossy CGI."
  • The movie replaces the book's "barely repressed sexual heat" with countless well-shot but hopelessly boring details, complains Joy Tipping at the Dallas Morning News. "Viewers will be able to make that blasted peach pie" by the time a much-buzzed-about cooking scene ends. So if you're looking for a nice recipe "or go all dreamy-eyed at pretty cinematography and over-sentimentality, by all means, this is the film for you."
  • But Steven Rea at the Philadelphia Inquirer found it "a strange, strangely compelling romance—one minute it's Harlequin bodice-ripper, the next it's Jim Thompson pulp." OK, sure, the ending, which involves old-age makeup, "is not to be believed," but Brolin's performance is "wonderfully sly," Winslet is "just extraordinary," and the movie buzzes with "passion, poetry, and humor."
(More Jason Reitman stories.)

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