Out Now – 21st March 2014

Labor Day

Labor Day
Jason Reitman has directed five great films… and he’s directed Labor Day. Silly romantic drama about Stockholm Syndrome setting in over a long weekend when Josh Brolin’s brooding escapee takes refuge in Kate Winslet’s sad widow’s house. There are pies and sexual tension in a film I described as “a good film if a little too laboured (HA!) to be believable.” That joke never gets old.

Starred Up
Jack O’Connell plays the character he usually plays; a terrifying angry young man that fails to get my sympathy because I can imagine looking at him in the wrong way and getting a black eye. This is gritty British prison drama at its best but this isn’t a genre that I particularly enjoy. My second three star film out this week.

A Long Way Down
A saccharin-seeming Nick Hornby adaptation about four people who form an unlikely friendship (take a shot) when they meet on a rooftop while attempting to commit suicide. Reviews are mixed at best but for some reason I wouldn’t mind giving the film a try.

About Last Night
“Follow two couples as they journey from the bar to the bedroom and are eventually put to the test in the real world.” I advise you follow these couples only through watching this film rather than in real life. Following a couple from the bar to the bedroom could lead you to dangerous sexual situations.

Salvo
Italian film about a bodyguard and hitman called Salvo. Upon meeting the blind sister of one of his targets Salvo is made “to question himself and his existence”. Expect lots of violence followed by quiet contemplation.

The Machine
UK sci-fi thriller in which robots are used for evil! I will be reviewing this film next week when I return from my accidental blog strike. A strike I am apparently holding against myself. What an idiot.

The Robber
I should probably focus on the fact that this German film focusses on the true story of a marathon runner turned bank robber but I am too distracted by how childish sounding the word “robber” suddenly feels.

Svengali
British comedy about a postman who enters the music industry. Interestingly enough the Postman Pat film has a similar plot but Svengali is infinitely less likely to tarnish the memory of a childhood favourite. Damn you Pat!

G.B.F.
“What happens after Tanner is outed by his classmates and becomes the title “gay best friend” for three high school queen bees?” A teen comedy centred around a gay character has the potential to be progressive or horribly exploitative. People I respect have given differing reviews; the good and the bad/ugly.

Yves Saint Laurent
Biopic looking at the life of Yves Saint Laurent. The poster uses the same logo as the brand which caused me more confusion than you’d expect.

The Unknown Known
“Former United States Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, discusses his career in Washington D.C. from his days as a congressman in the early 1960s to planning the invasion of Iraq in 2003.”

Labor Day – LFF Film Review

Labor Day	Photo credit:  Dale Robinette

Jason Reitman made his name making high quality comedy dramas and Labor Day marks something of a departure for him as not only is it his first period film but also, in my opinion at least, is his first out-and-out drama. It is 1987 and an escaped convict (Josh Brolin) takes refuge in the house of a single mother (Kate Winslet) and her only son (Gattlin Griffith). He initially is holding mother and son against their will but as the long weekend passes he becomes less of a kidnapper and more of a refugee as he takes on the role of husband and father that both are missing from their lives.

Reitman is clearly trying to make something a little different to his normal fare here but is doing so in such a self-conscious way that I think he gets a little lost. Scenes within the house are so po-faced it is hard to take them seriously. Josh Brolin may be playing an escaped convict but he plays him as such a gentle giant, such a caring and considerate man, that it is hard to see why he would have escaped from jail in the first place rather than continue to serve his time. Winslet’s sad divorcee is a fragile creature and it is not hard to see why she might start to develop feelings for her kidnapper but the combination of her need for a saviour and his deliberate saviour-like qualities seems a little forced. Clark Gregg plays the ex-husband and father as a sweet and caring man who is perhaps a little bland thanks to limited characterisation. Again it is not obvious why we should see him as being so inadequate in the role of father for an escaped criminal to seem like a viable option. It is as though a particular outcome for the film was sought and so characters were written to suit.

The real star of the film is Gattlin Griffith as the son Henry. It is through his eyes we see this whole ordeal and maybe this is why some of the characters come across as caricatures. Griffith is very much viewing the film along with the audience as I don’t think either of us could ever quite decide if we wanted Brolin to get caught or not.

Jason Reitman has made a quality film with plenty of beautiful images and a raft of strong performances. The film is almost a tactile experience and has such a fully realised setting I felt like I could reach out and feel the roughness of the furniture or taste the peach pie. Where the films struggles is how seriously it takes itself considering its slightly implausible plot. At various times in the film I was incredulous when I realised that only two days had passed when the amount of change in the characters’ relationships would have requited much, much longer. It was a relief when the few scenes set outside the house brought with them laughter and I could take a breath as the story within the house wasn’t going to allow for any smiles unless you were considering how wondering Josh Brolin’s convict was as a family man.

Labor Day (Labour Day?) is a good film if a little too laboured (HA!) to be believable.

Labor Day screens at the festival on the 15th and 19th October and is in UK cinemas on 7th February 2014.

BFI London Film Festival 2013