Armed with what many would consider a no-miss record as director under his belt, Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air) has commenced with principal photography on his latest movie venture: Labor Day, an adaptation of Joyce Maynard’s well-received coming-of-age novel, which was also scripted by Reitman.
Labor Day features Reitman’s customary band of collaborators – save for Diablo Cody, who penned Juno and Young Adult - including producers Lianne Halfon and Russell Smith and executive producer Steven M. Rales. Mark Roybal of Indian Paintbrush (No Country for Old Men, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World) will also serve as an executive producer on the project.
Maynard’s source novel is recounted via flashback by Henry, a man in his 30s who thinks back to the life-changing Labor Day weekend he experienced at age 13 (portrayed by Gattlin Griffith in Reitman’s adaptation). During a trip to purchase supplies for the fast-approaching school year, Henry and his divorced, agoraphobic mother Adele (Kate Winslet) encounter an unkempt, slightly bloodied man named Frank Chambers (Josh Brolin), who the two reluctantly agree to help.
Soon thereafter, Frank confesses that he is a convicted killer who managed to break out of prison. However, true to his word, Frank proves to be a good man, and teaches Henry many an important lesson over the last days of summer vacation – while also helping Adele to come out of her shell, having been deprived of intimacy since her separation from Henry’s father (The Avengers‘ Clark Gregg).
If there’s a shared connection between Reitman’s filmography to date (save for Juno), it’s a protagonist who could readily be portrayed as an utterly repulsive and despicable figure – but, under Reitman’s supervision, is instead humanized as a more identifiable personality. Admittedly, Frank in Labor Day sounds like a character who might fall into the “criminal with a heart of gold” cliché, but that’s not said to be the case with Maynard’s source material (and, by extension, Reitman’s film adaptation).
Labor Day otherwise bears some passing resemblances to Reitman’s previous work, but not so much to say that he’s merely retreading dramatic territory. Even if the project didn’t have such a capable storyteller at the helm, it would still be worth a look, simply for the quality of uniting Winslet and Brolin onscreen. Both are independently capable of elevating what might’ve otherwise been a fairly unwatchable movie (see: The Holiday and Men in Black III).
Look for Labor Day to reach theaters by the last quarter of 2013 (probably not the titular date, though).
Source: Paramount Pictures