Here’s an odd bit of trivia: If you caught last year’s documentary about J.D. Salinger, you saw Joyce Maynard revealing her unique insight into the author’s life. She lived with the reclusive Salinger for about a year. It was news at the time because he was 53 and she had just written a heralded autobiographical article called, “An Eighteen Year Old Looks Back on Life.”
Years later, Maynard wrote the novel Labor Day, adapted for the screen and directed by Jason Reitman. It’s not as interesting as the tale of its author, but it does have some high points. Notably, and somewhat expectedly, one of those is Kate Winslet. She’s been nominated for six Oscars and she isn’t even 40 yet. There was no Oscar mention this year, although her work in Labor Day did get a Golden Globe nomination.
Winslet plays Adele, a single mother whose life is rocked when she meets a mysterious yet ruggedly handsome man. Frank (Josh Brolin) is upfront about why he’s bleeding: He jumped out of a second-story hospital window to get away from prison guards. He had been convicted of murder many years ago.
But hey, he’s a man, so that’s new and different, and he’s handy around the house. Oh, and he makes delicious pies. So Adele falls in love.
The falling in love isn’t immediate, mind you; it does take from Thursday to about Saturday. Totally believable. All of this is seen through the eyes of her teenage son, Henry (Gattlin Griffith), who for other reasons, thinks it’s keen to have a man around the house.
Winslet and Brolin are good together here, but the film plods along very slowly without much payoff.
What’s strange is that Reitman (Up in the Air, Juno) would be so drawn to what is essentially a slightly more literate Nicholas Sparks novel.
LABOR DAY, Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin. Directed by Jason Reitman. PG-13, 111 minutes.