Labor Day (Blu-ray)

With Thank You for Smoking, Juno, and Up in the Air, director Jason Reitman has proven himself adept at making clever films that tackle serious issues with a sharp sense of humor. If his last film, Young Adult, suggested Reitman was interested in darker fare, his latest effort, Labor Day, confirms it. Adapted by Reitman from the bestselling novel by Joyce Maynard, the story is set in small town Massachusetts, 1987.

Thirteen-year old Henry (Gattlin Griffith) lives with his mother Adele (Kate Winslet), a deeply traumatized woman who rarely leaves the house. She manages to get along with lots of support from Henry, who runs most of the errands around town. One day, during one of Adele’s monthly outings with her son to pick up supplies, Henry runs into Frank (Josh Brolin), who is not only bleeding from his side and limping, but we find out later, has escaped prison. Frank asks Adele and Henry to take him to their home, but does so in a way that is soft-spoken yet strong, and they reluctantly agree.

Frank explains he needs a place to hide for a few hours, and will then be on his way. With the media and local cops looking for him, Frank quickly makes himself useful around the house. He fixes a creaky door, a crumbling stone wall, and even shows Henry and Adele how to make a homemade peach pie. Unaccustomed to such kindness, Adele finds herself drawn to this rather mysterious man. Gradually, it becomes clear that the two have more in common than one ever would have thought. Over the course of the weekend, Frank and Adele develop a relationship, forming their own little family with Henry, even as the authorities continue to search for Frank.

Labor Day is not a typical romance film in the sense that Reitman doesn’t put the focus on the relationship between Frank and Adele itself, but rather the reason why Frank and Adele feel such an affinity for one another. When we finally learn about the incidents that apparently connect them, things get a bit murky. While the source of Adele’s depression is completely understandable, it comes out of nowhere; there’s no connection to the story as it’s been presented up to that point. And Frank’s story, while certainly tragic, feels pedestrian when compared to Adele’s.

Josh Brolin is a surprise as Frank. I’ve always thought of him more as a tough guy than a romantic lead, but he acquits himself well here. It appears as those Frank just might be caring guy forced into a bad situation. The part that’s hard to swallow of course, he is an escape convict! However, if you’re able to put that aside, this is a tender hearted guy, as Brolin plays him. Kate Winslet is predictably excellent, and her chemistry with Brolin is surprisingly palpable. Unfortunately, a muddled last twenty minutes detracts from what could have been a truly interesting twist on the romantic drama.

Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Paramount’s 1080p transfer is a solid one. Detail is impressive throughout, whether it be faces, Massachusetts foliage or clothing fibers. The color palette is strong and vibrant, with flesh tones appearing accurate. There are no apparent digital anomalies.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless surround track fits the film rather well. This is a dialogue driven film, and this offers a clear and concise reading throughout. Occasional directional effects are apparent, and Rolfe Kent’s score is given impressive spacing.

English, English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles are included.

The following extras are available:

  • Audio Commentary: Writer/Director/Producer Jason Reitman, Co-producer Jason Blumenfeld, and Cinematographer Eric Steelburg get together to discuss various scenes, particular shots and the equipment used, locations, thoughts on the cast and more.
  • End of Summer (HD, 29:06) A look at the making of the film that includes interviews with various members of the cast and crew.
  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 10:36) Six in total. None of them would have added anything to the film.
  • DVD copy of the film.
  • Digital and UV Copy.

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