Jason Reitman has successfully stepped out from his famous father’s shadow (Ivan Reitman) with critically acclaimed – and financially solvent – pictures like Up In the Air and Juno. I didn’t personally care for either of those films, but that’s neither here nor there. They were hits. Light comedy hits.
With Labor Day, the 36-year-old director has now stuck his big toe in to the murky waters of the psychological thriller genre. If light comedies rely on swift pacing, smart casting, and just the right music, psych thrillers live and die by their tone, their sense of danger, even in the mundane.
This film barely hints at danger, shocking considering its premise: an escaped con (Josh Brolin) takes a single mother (Kate Winslet) and her wide-eyed teenaged son hostage while the local cops search the area.
Or maybe the premise itself was just a ruse? A contrivance to pander to a deeper psychological market. The exasperated woman who just can’t seem to find a good man.
Here’s where Labor Day ceased being anything resembling a psychological thriller and crashed and burned on its overt condescending female fantasy island. The rugged escaped convict with a heart of gold, who is not only an expert chef (you should see the peach pie he whips up!), but he mops and waxes the floors, changes and rotates the tires, fixes the cabinets, plays baseball with the fatherless boy, grouts the flagstones, organizes the lumber, and gives a helluva neck rub – after he’s done the dishes.
You think I’m kidding? Not even. This guy does it all! Did I mention he’s also super compassionate to handicapped children? Yup.
We get it, Jason: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Well, I got one for you: “A woman needs an escaped convict like a fish needs a bicycle.”
Now please go back to making light comedies I hate. Maybe I’ll like the next one.