The season of festival-favorite indies and studio-backed Oscar bait is upon us, yet a trailer for Labor Day – the new film written/directed by Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air) – has been withheld from being made available for public viewing… until now, anyway. As you can see from watching the preview above, Reitman’s fifth full-length feature as director might be his most beautifully composed film to date (courtesy of the cinematography by his trusted D.O.P., Eric Steelberg).
So, what’s the story behind all the pretty pictures? Well, Reitman’s script – based on the novel by Joyce Maynard – revolves around a depressed single mom (Kate Winslet) and her teenage son (Dylan Minnette), who gives a ride to an injured man (Josh Brolin) on their way home to start the Labor Day holiday weekend. It’s never a good idea to pick up hitchhikers – especially one who looks like he could be Batman – and, sure enough, it turns out Brolin is a convict on the run, who takes the pair hostage… and ends up repairing their lives (and house, by the look of it) in the process.
Labor Day is the latest addition to Reitman’s continuing body of work; that, with the exception of Juno, have been about expressing sympathy for the devil. This started with Aaron Eckhart’s empathetic Big Tobacco spokesman in Thank You for Smoking, on through to George Clooney’s corporate downsizer from Up in the Air and, most recently, Charlize Theron as a disillusioned author in the pitch-black dramedy, Young Adult. As such, in Labor Day, Brolin’s character is the catalyst for what can probably be best summarized as a somewhat twisted variation on the coming of age genre (with young Henry as the protagonist).
UPDATE: Here is a second trailer for Labor Day (via Moviefone):
Labor Day was screened at a handful of film festivals earlier this year (Telluride, Toronto and so forth), ahead of it making an Oscar-qualifying limited debut in December, before it begins a regular theatrical release in 2014. Reviews thus far have been generally positive, save for a recurring point of disagreement among film reviewers: how successful (or not) Reitman is at wrestling the melodramatic trappings of the premise; and, in turn, whether he’s able to shape the material into a movie narrative that feels sincere and emotionally authentic.
Regardless, the trailer seems promising, taken on its own merits. Furthermore, the one-two punch of Brolin and Winslet in the leads – with a supporting cast that includes Agent Coulson himself, Clark Gregg (only present in VO mode in the trailer) – and Reitman calling the shots, may be enough to make Labor Day worth checking out, its awards season prospects be damned.
Labor Day will begin a (very) limited U.S. theatrical release on December 25th, 2013. It begins a nationwide tour in theaters on January 31st, 2014.