Thursday, January 30, 2014

LABOR DAY: My review

2014 is young but maybe the dumbest movie of the year is already here. LABOR DAY. It will be released tomorrow. I've seen it already because they laughably thought it was Oscar material and sent out DVD screeners. This is author Joyce Maynard’s masturbatory fantasy about a big hunky escaped con hiding in a lonely but sexy single mother’s house for a long weekend and becoming the perfect lover, father, and handy-man.

The screenplay was adapted and directed by Jason Reitman who used to be a terrific director. What the hell happened between UP IN THE AIR and this?

It stars Kate Winslet playing a less interesting version of the character she played beautifully in LITTLE CHILDREN. And Josh Brolin, who you always think got the role after seven better actors turned it down.

She’s a depressed mom and he’s your standard convicted murderer with a heart of gold. So naturally they click. What morose woman wouldn’t fall in love with a killer on the lam and vice versa?

LABOR DAY refers to the process you'll be experiencing while watching this movie.  
The narrative is so stupid on every level that you’ll spend half the film shaking your head (and the other half checking your watch). There’s an APB out on this guy in the sleepy little town. Police cars are patrolling the streets. Cops are going door to door. Neighbors are stopping by to make sure our sweet Kate is okay. You’d think Josh would keep a low profile. But no. He’s out in the yard teaching her kid how to hit a baseball. He’s cleaning the storm drains, fixing the car, repairing things in the yard – all right out there in the open.

But wait! Brolin was also stabbed in the abdomen during his escape, but that doesn’t stop him from doing everything.  You'd think raking would cause internal bleeding. 

And still there’s more. He bakes pies! There’s a ten minute segment of this dud where we see him show Kate & son how to bake a pie. Ten minutes. I kid you not. Shots of him cutting peaches. The three of them kneading the dough. Every step is explained and demonstrated. The Food Network doesn’t spend that much time showing you how to bake a friggin’ pie.

I bet back at the prison the inmates were in an uproar because there would be no French apple pie to go along with their shit on a shingle.

As a friend pointed out, there’s zero suspense because Brolin is about as threatening as Mr. Rogers.

Trust me, January is usually the dumping ground for bad movies. If this clunker were any good – especially with decent names attached – it would have been released in November.

The film is oozing with schmaltz, waaaay too long, and as believable as KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE. A couple more of these and Jason Reitman will be directing episodes of HONEY BOO BOO.

Spare yourself. Better to take the money, go to Marie Calendar’s and buy a pie.

35 comments:

emily said...

And Rex Reed says, "A wrenching, riveting and richly rewarding experience at the movies."

I'll go with Ken, thanks.

Hamid said...

Well, this won't open in the UK until the end of March, but it sounds like one to miss, which is a shame, as I'm a big fan of both Winslet and Brolin.

This weekend I'll be checking out Lone Survivor, which looks pretty good.

By the way, Ken, you'll have no doubt heard the LOL news about the Academy pulling one of this year's Best Original Song nominees after accusations that its composer improperly lobbied Academy voters.
http://insidemovies.ew.com/2014/01/29/oscars-kill-original-song-nomination-for-alone-yet-not-alone-breaking/

Anonymous said...

"The screenplay was adapted and directed by Jason Reitman who used to be a terrific director. What the hell happened between UP IN THE AIR and this? "

Really? You never directed or wrote a stinker of a MASH episode? We'll let alone AFTER MASH. Sometimes you take the work available at the time, Ken. Or should he sit around and wait for a great screenplay that he'd be allowed to direct while he's getting behind on his mortgage payments? Is that how it works?

Pop Tate said...

So it's basically as realistic as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (without the...you know).

A gorgeous princess (a low profile position) runs two or three blocks from the evil Queen's castle, bakes pies, leaves the windows open and invites the first old bag that comes by with apples. Then she dies but a prince does the Hemlich so she rides to his castle.

Pretty much the same thing with Josh Brolin as Snow White.

michael said...

So does Anonymous work for Reitman, is really Reitman, or is an inmate who yearns for the chance to bake French apple pie?

Jason said...

"Anonymous", first of all.. well, no, I don't think Ken did (though maybe that Bar Wars thing). Second, there's a big difference between an episode of a TV comedy and a feature film. But I am sorry to hear that Reitman is broke!

Scooter Schechtman said...

More kvetching. Why can't you be more like the ABC Radio guy who likes everything and gets quoted in ads?

Anonymous said...

Ken,
You are obviously not a 50 something cougar....Josh Brolin can teach me how to bake a peach pie any day of the week! I saw the screener and it was a mild amusement....except for Kate Winslet's eyebrows, which should have had their own sub-plot they are so large on the screen! I'd love to see a wax-off between her and any member of the Kardashians, even Bruce Jenner!

Dan Ball said...

Even when I saw the TV spots for this one, I couldn't figure out how Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin thought it was above Lifetime fare. Then you gobsmacked me by saying Jason Reitman directed it and a part of me died.

Now, I think I have an answer to the probably-rhetorical question, "What the hell happened between UP IN THE AIR and this?"

YOUNG ADULT.

Man, I hate seeing his career plummet as quickly as his dad's did after GHOSTBUSTERS. (Though KINDERGARTEN COP was sinfully fun.)

Matt said...

I just assumed if it was any good they would have released it over Labor Day weekend.

Matt Neffer, Boy Spotwelder said...

I didn't like it, but I didn't think it was as awful as you did. I think the mistake was sending it out as a screener thinking the movie is Oscar bait, which it isn't. It's a small movie with modest goals and it accomplishes them reasonably well. Then again, if they'd never sent out a screener I'd never have watched it. :)

Hamid said...

Dan

I like Ivan Reitman. He's made some duds, sure, but some classics too.

I'm looking forward to Ken's review of Ivan Reitman's new film, Draft Day, as it's a sports comedy.

BigTed said...

Ha, they've been showing "Killer Klowns from Outer Space" on one of the bad-old-movie channels recently. If you hate clowns, it's actually kind of scary.

BigTed said...

And Joyce Maynard, of course, is the writer who famously had a relationship with J.D. Salinger when she was 18, until she discovered that living with an egotistical hermit three times her age wasn't as much fun as it should have been.

Breadbaker said...

Food Network, or Cooking Channel, no Food Channel.

And my captcha is Quintus smubsta, whom I think was Pope once.

Dash Riprock said...

Yet clearly J.D. opened some doors for Joyce, right? Otherwise wouldn't her books be in the Harlequin section of Big Lots?

Mike said...

So was Seth MacFarlane right?
"Kate Winslet we saw your boobs in The Reader, Titanic, Iris, ..., and whatever you're working on right now!"

PNW Corey said...

Ken,
You missed a book plugging opportunity..."Spare yourself. Better to take the money, go to Marie Calendar’s and buy a pie"...or better yet, buy my book

norm said...

Ken,
Did you not like this movie?

-bee said...

First time I saw the trailer it struck me that the plot is a cheesy bowdlerization of the very good Clint Eastwood film "A Perfect World".

There are clues in some of Reitman Jr's films that he has a very cynical, pragmatic side, it looks like he took on this project purely to make a buck by pandering to the romance novel crowd. Who knows, it might do OK at the box office.

Victor Velasco said...

Thanks for the laughs; check out the interview with Joyce Maynard in the S.F. Chronicle...the pies! the pies! please, make it stop!!!!

Hamid said...

@norm

Norm!

Sorry, couldn't resist.

Bob said...

Ken, I have a page from a Cheers script used by my old friend, Jackie Swanson, and I'm wondering what the letter under the page number in the top right corner is for. It says (J). She isn't sure why it's there. Thanks.

D. McEwan said...

That's pretty much what Entertainment Weekly said in their pan of this turkey also, only they weren't anywhere near as funny.

Anonymous said...

This movie sounds like it has the same plot as about half the episodes of The Fugitive with David Janssen. Except that he was innocent and we knew he would escape in the end. I always envied him -- he would roll into town, meet a beautiful girl, talk as little as humanly possible, and by the first commercial she was madly in love with him.

benson said...

So you're saying, "January 31st, 2014; the day the running stopped" is a dead giveaway?

John said...

Sounds like they could have called the movie "Pretty Man".

The fantasy some women have of taking on a 'bad boy' for the excitement of it and then remaking him into the ideal boyfriend/husband is one you see in real life every day, especially if you search your local police report for repeat offenders under family violence cases. It's just surprising Maynard would use that as a jumping off point for making a bad boy turn so good you can't help but role your eyes at the disconnect from reality.

afg1 said...

Can I have the pie without Josh Brolin?

Sunshine Vitamin said...

A friend gave me the book after she read it on the flight in. I read it on the flight out. It's the source material that is the problem. Trust me, the pie is the most believable character in the whole story.

Chris Muir said...

Hey! I love Killer Klowns From Outer Space! It explains why so many people have a innate revulsion of clowns. Almost a Jungian archetype.

Ralph C. said...

No, benson, the running should end in a couple of weeks... if movie-goers are lucky.

Anonymous said...

Jason Said:

"Anonymous", first of all.. well, no, I don't think Ken did (though maybe that Bar Wars thing). Second, there's a big difference between an episode of a TV comedy and a feature film. But I am sorry to hear that Reitman is broke!"

Jason, it's not an issue of being "broke," it's an issue of having bills to pay, and needing a project to pay the bills, as well as wanting to work. Many movie directors will tell you they took on a project because they hadn't worked in a while, for whatever reason, and that project was what was available. Sometimes a director might even take on a project as a favor, for whatever reason, to whomever. It doesn't mean that director is on the skids creatively, or economically.

Furthermore, I know one film director, who's made good movies you've heard of, he's very good at what he does, who has been hustling for work since he started. They don't just fall in his lap. Sometimes he takes on a project simply because he hasn't worked in two years, the project was not too embarrassing, and–he'd like to make some money once in a while. Nothing to do with being broke.

Ken knows all this stuff, so I don't know what got into him.

As for you, quit playing the schmuck.

Barbara C. said...

Yeah, I lost all interest in this movie when I saw Winslet and Brolin fondling raw eggs together in the commercial.

My first thought was,"Wow, they are trying to rip off the clay modeling scene in Ghost."

My second thought was, "As if handling raw egg isn't gross enough, why the hell would I want someone else sticking their hands in it with me?"

jbryant said...

Anonymous: That's all very well and good, and I've always been one to defend directors (and especially actors) who choose to work rather than go broke waiting for the perfect project. But by all accounts, LABOR DAY was a "passion project" for Reitman. In interviews he has said he "fell in love" with the book when he read it in galleys and wanted to be "very true to what it was." He actually wanted to make it before YOUNG ADULT, but waited for Winslet's availability. Sure, he could be lying about all this, but I doubt it. Guys like this (4 Oscar nominations by age 32) have their own production shingles and develop their own projects, pitching them to studios until they find backing. Highly unlikely that he would develop a commercially iffy project like this if he didn't believe in it. It doesn't sound like the kind of project a studio would develop these days, nor the type they'd offer to Reitman, whose previous films have more pronounced (and intentional) comic elements. I assume Reitman has a deal with Paramount, since they have distributed all his films since UP IN THE AIR. I'm guessing that deal was made coming off the heat of JUNO. Commercially, it paid off with UP IN THE AIR; but YOUNG ADULT made less than $23 million worldwide (luckily, it only cost $12 million). I'll be shocked if LABOR DAY is a hit, so it will be interesting to see if Paramount stays in the Reitman business.

KZ of Austin TX home theater said...


Iv'e always been fascinated with Kate Winslet's charm on her movies. I'd still be watching this even if the reviews of it sounds oddly bad.