Saturday, February 01, 2014
"Labor Day", in January, and in New England, with the Stockholm Syndrome
“Labor Day”, from Indian Paintbrush and director Jason Reitman and this time distributed under the full Paramount brand (instead of Paramount Vantage), has gotten a lot of hype, but it is a 2014 film, not in the Oscar race. The premise of the story stretches credibility for me, at least, but it’s based on a novel by Joyce Maynard. One can suppose that it demonstrates writing talent to be able to tell a story about characters doing things we don’t think we would do, to step out of the writer’s own me-centeredness.
In southern New Hampshire around 1982 (the film was shot in nearby Massachusetts, away from the mountains) a single mother Adele (Kate Winslet) raises her 12-year-old son Henry (Gatlin Griffith), his voice just having changed. It’s clear that he is very articulate and sharp and will soon be a socially competitive teenager, able to fit in even if he likes cooking and dance. The story, in fact, is narrated by a married thirty-something Henry, who as an adult runs New England restaurants, played by Tobey Maguire, who appears only once at the end. (Here, a female writer puts herself in the shoes of a male character. I’m not really willing to do that as a fiction writer, and that could be seen as a problem.)
On Thursday before Labor Day, Adele and Henry go to a small neighborhood grocery. Henry is accosted by an escaped con, Frank (Josh Brolin). He leads him to his mother, and Frank is able to make his threats credible enough that Adele and Henry shelter him away from the police in their home. (It's well to recall that a horrific home invasion in Connecticut in 2007 started with a grocery store visit, though.)
I’m not sure I buy that sequence. And I know what happens later could be seen as part of the so-called Stockholm Syndrome. Still, the film gives us flashbacks of tragic events in the past for both Adele and Frank. Adele begins to fall in love with Frank, which again I don’t buy. Henry seems to go along with it, but figures out a way to get to his divorced father and get a tip out. I hope that’s not too much of a give-away, but you really don’t believe that the couple will go the route of Bonnie and Clyde (often mentioned toward the end of the movie). And you know from the narration that it turns out well for Henry. He even learned to become a baseball player from Frank (in one sequence, the set up a tiny Fenway in their back yard, and Henry can reach the fences).
There was a particularly shocking homophobic line in one scene involving Henry. And in a couple spots, Josh bordered on harming him. We know the time frame from the encapsulated references to Steven Spielberg movies, especially “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “The E.T.”.
The official site is here.
The song “Stay” in the previews doesn’t appear in the real movie. But there is a similar piece of classical music for piano by a lesser known composer, Sor.
I saw this film at the Angelika Mosaic on a Saturday afternoon, before a fair crowd. There was a 5-minute short from Focus Forward, “A Glacier in the Desert”, about a sculptor who hires technology just to create such.
Picture: Tilton, NH, my visit, July 2011, also a visit in May 1961 on a school trip.