Thursday, April 17, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Review: ‘Labor Day,’ as mushy as a warm peach pie

Jocelyn Noveck

If you’ve seen the trailer for “Labor Day,” Jason Reitman’s film based on the novel by Joyce Maynard, then you’ve caught a glimpse of a new breakout star, who threatens to upstage even the estimable Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin.

No, we’re not talking about young newcomer Gattlin Griffith, though he gives a lovely performance.

We’re talking about the peach pie.

Seldom has a baked good assumed so prominent an onscreen role as in this film, where it serves both as catalyst and as metaphor, for, um, sex. Plenty of movies have displayed food worshipfully, but this scene more aptly recalls that moist clay on the potter’s wheel in “Ghost,” where ceramics were quite beside the point.

Alas, both that clay and this pie hold together better than “Labor Day” does.

Reitman is a talented filmmaker, as you’ll know if you’ve seen “Juno” or “Up in the Air,” to name just two. But those movies had key elements that “Labor Day” does not: Humor, and edge.

It’s understandable why there’s no humor here; it’s the story of a seriously depressed, divorced mother and her preteen son, and how their lives intersect one summer with an escaped convict, for a Labor Day weekend that will change all of them. Not much comedy there.

But the lack of edge or irony is more serious. Reitman is so sincere in his presentation of this tale that we feel rather smothered by it. It doesn’t help that the narration — by Tobey Maguire, as the grown-up son looking back — is often unnecessary, pounding in a point that we already got.

And the prominent flashbacks, while occasionally useful, are also downright confusing at times. They make you want to go home and read the book, because it becomes clear that a book would do so much better a job of fleshing out these characters — and more importantly, explaining their actions.

None of this takes away from the very appealing performances of Winslet and Brolin, not to mention the sensitive Griffith. At times, you don’t even care that you don’t quite believe what they’re doing. You’re just enjoying watching them do it.

Winslet plays Adele, a mother whose depression makes her almost a hermit in her cluttered home in a New England town (gorgeously evoked in its summer glory by cinematographer Eric Steelberg.) We meet her and her seventh-grade son, Henry, as they’re embarking on a shopping trip for school clothes.

At the store, they’re approached by a muscular, menacing man with a bloody wound. He asks them to take him home and let him rest. “Frankly, this needs to happen,” he says.

At home, Frank ties Adele to a chair. But from there, he departs from our preconceived notions of escaped-convict behavior, making a pot of chili that Rachael Ray would love, and spoon-feeding it to Adele. As the weekend proceeds, Frank, who we learn was convicted of murder long ago, fixes the squeaky floorboard. He cleans the gutters and irons the clothes.

It gets better yet. When a neighbor delivers ripe peaches, Adele’s ready to throw them away, but Frank has another idea: baking the best-looking pie you’ve ever seen. “I want to talk about crust,” he tells mother and son, giving little tips like how crucial the salt is. Watching the pie rise in the oven, we want nothing more than to reach in and touch it. We wonder if there’s any vanilla ice cream around…

Oh right, the movie. Well, it’s not hard to see how attractive Frank seems to Adele. Still, things move awfully, even implausibly fast.

The drama heightens as we learn more about why Adele suffers the way she does, and why Frank ended up in prison. Thanks to some heartfelt acting — particularly from Winslet — we stay focused.

But it’s hard not to feel that this movie could have been so much better than it turned out.

Something we won’t say for that pie. That pie is perfect.

“Labor Day,” a Paramount Pictures release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “thematic material, brief violence and sexuality.” Running time: 111 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Supervisor candidates square off at forum

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1, 5 Comments | Gallery

 
Carli takes oath, now Vacaville’s 14th police chief

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Huge jump in Solano median home price

By Brad Stanhope | From Page: A1, 3 Comments | Gallery

Donate a car, help build a house

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Solano DA hosts workshop to fight human trafficking

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3, 1 Comment | Gallery

Suisun water rates won’t rise this year

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3

 
 
Fairfield town hall on crime delayed

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4, 4 Comments

Railway museum offers wine-tasting rides

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

 
 
Drugs topic of cardiac class

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

Weather for April 17, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B12

 
Fairfield police log: April 15, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: April 15, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Fairfield police log: April 14, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun Police log: April 14, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
.

US / World

Armed robber was never told to report to prison

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Body of California man who jumped into river found

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Lost sea lion in California found mile from water

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Seabird from Atlantic spotted on Alcatraz

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Ex-Bell city leader gets 12 years in prison

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
California delays decision on protecting gray wolf

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Court rules for environmentalists in water fight

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Governor calls special session on rainy day fund

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

Denver police eye 911 response time after killing

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

 
Man charged with marathon hoax is held on bail

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Geneva talks on Ukraine face steep hurdles

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Pro-Russian insurgents seize armored vehicles

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Ferry sinks off South Korea; 6 dead, 290 missing

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
NATO ups military presence amid Russian threat

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

.

Opinion

In support of Pam Bertani

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 6 Comments

 
Parenting demands responsibility

By Ruben Navarrette | From Page: A11, 1 Comment

 
Let’s stop Fairfield’s future thugs

By Kelvin Wade | From Page: A11, 6 Comments

Obamacare news you probably missed

By Martin Schram | From Page: A11, 2 Comments

 
Editorial Cartoons for April 17, 2014

By Kim Durbin | From Page: A11

.

Living

A lesson in household budgeting

By Chris Erskine | From Page: A2

 
Today in History for April 17, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Community Calendar: April 17, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Horoscopes for April 17, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

 
.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Daniel Radcliffe on why New York audiences rock

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Alicia Silverstone out with book ‘Kind Mama’

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Jenny McCarthy announces engagement on ‘The View’

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Ailing Malcolm Young taking break from AC/DC

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Disney Channel’s ‘Jessie’ breaks romantic ground

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

.

Sports

Vacaville’s Peralta to wrestle at San Francisco State

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1

 
Angels beat A’s 5-4 on Iannetta’s HR in 12th

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

MEL, SCAC tangle in hoops all-star games

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1

 
Sharks take goalie questions into rematch vs Kings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Crawford’s 41 points leads Warriors over Nuggets

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

IndyCar driver Saavedra fined $10K

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Sandoval’s single lifts Giants past Dodgers, 2-1

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Officer: Sharper’s DNA found on 1 Arizona victim

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Jets sign former Titans RB Chris Johnson

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Spieth ready for more after Masters success

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Backup QB Matt Flynn returns to Packers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Atlanta lands MLS expansion team for 2017

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Bucks owner Herb Kohl reaches deal to sell team

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Sidney Rice agrees to terms with Seahawks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Goodwin helps Suns to 104-99 win over Kings in finale

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
.

Business

Yellen: Fed stimulus still needed for job market

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Some exempted from minimum wage, increased or not

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Fed survey: Growth picks up across most of US

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Bank of America posts loss, hurt by legal charges

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

IBM posts lower 1Q earnings amid hardware slump

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Google’s 1Q earnings disappoint as ad prices slip

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9