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'Labor Day' fails to tell romance without romance

By Randy Amorim
On February 3, 2014

There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who know that bars, clubs and wild parties are not the right place to meet people in search of a relationship and those who do not. "Labor Day" is a film for the latter. We'd all like to believe that anybody can fall in love anywhere at any given time or place, but this is essentially a film for those who do not stop to think that perhaps that isn't such a great thing.
"Labor Day" tells the story of Adele (Kate Winslet) and her son Henry. Henry's father left Adele and married his secretary. Henry chose to live with her since she has nobody else. She is a depressed and very lonely woman who is not at all stable. She leaves the house only once a month to buy groceries. The obvious question that the writers didn't feel they needed to address is what this woman does for a living since she has a house and we never see her do anything all day besides sitting around being miserable.
The Thursday before Labor Day, Adele and Henry make their monthly trip, during which they meet escaped convict Frank (Josh Brolin) and he somewhat forces them to take him home with them. I say "somewhat forced" because Frank asks them and insists in a crowded store and only places his hand on Henry's back to intimidate Adele. She is concerned for his safety, but doesn't seem to realize she can scream for help and the man would probably run.
After getting a ridiculous amount of chances to call for help and avoid what could possibly be their murder, Adele arrives at the house with Frank and Henry. Long story short, he doesn't really force them to do anything and she doesn't really try to make him leave although she worries for her son's safety. She has a phone, but doesn't even try to use it. If you're thinking that doesn't make sense then you understand my two hour experience with this movie.
The rest of that day he cleans up around the house, does all her chores, fixes things that need fixing and plays catch with her son. It's clear that Adele at this point is already in love with him despite the fact that he is an escaped convict put in jail for murder. He says there is more to the story than you'll read in the paper, but strangely Henry and Adele never ask and do not seem at all interested. When we finally see the culmination of annoying flashbacks throughout we understand that his wife cheated and left him alone with his kid all the time. So he puts the baby in the shower, forgets the water is running because he wants to accuse his wife of cheating, then shoves her causing her to crack her head and die and the baby drowns in the water before he can stop it. Director Jason Reitman, who has made great movies before, seems to think this qualifies him as an innocent man. It's a good thing he chose to be a director and not a lawyer.
While very well directed and decently acted, the writing and basic story are so poorly written and ill conceived that it is impossible to ignore. The romance is very sudden and forced. Truth be told, there isn't much romance at all. We hardly see them touch, kiss or even flirt. The film never even tries to imply that they are physically intimate in any way. For that matter, we never see them be emotionally intimate. It's a romance movie without romance.
The film is degrading to women and sets a bad example. This man is a murderer who kidnaps Adele and her son, but he shows some signs of being OK so she instantly falls in love with him. The film depicts and literally says through her son's narration that she is lonely and needs a man. She is depicted as a weak female who cannot do a single thing on her own and falls head over heels for the first guy to show up who does everything for her. As if all a husband must do is do things around the house, cook, clean and do laundry while the wife sits back and relaxes. It doesn't matter if they're in love or not because I certainly don't believe that Frank and Adele are at the end. Both men and women alike should avoid significant others who found this film to be "cute;" they likely have unrealistic expectations of relationships and love.

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