Quick Take on Jason Reitman’s Moving Labor Day


The love story is really what drives Jason Reitman’s beautifully rendered film Labor Day, which stars Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, from the novel by Joyce Maynard. Structure is key to the whys and hows of the plot. It might baffle a few waiting to see the usual formula unfurl. The timeline in this film is especially important, which you will (hopefully) discover when you see it. Don’t go in expecting Drive.

Reitman has pushed past many of his own limitations here, erasing the snark and the sarcasm. In its place, raw sentimentality that feels inevitable to an artist willing to step outside his comfort zone and take a risk. Both Reitman and Alexander Payne have, this year, really done what is much more difficult than delivering snark. Facing true emotion head-on ain’t easy. Facing the truth about the human experience, harder still.

But Labor Day is not a film, I don’t think, for the usual voices that dominate the film blogging scene. Fans of Reitman’s earlier work will want him to stay in that mode, like the Scorsese fans who only want to see Goodfellas or the Fincher fans who only want to see Fight Club. Reitman has gone beyond his reliance on having a joke for everything, where his characters never have to really feel anything very deeply or for long. That has changed with Labor Day.

If you listen to the dialogue carefully you will hear the novel’s themes and one of them is most definitely love. How do you stop two cars that are headed right for each other when neither person wants to put on the brakes? How do you stop fate?

I want to write a longer review later, but I need to think about the film a little more. I know that I responded to it in ways that don’t quite make sense, and probably are a bit more personal, and maybe even a little dysfunctional. Where labor Day inevitably wants to take me, though, is down the rough road of unlikely, but undeniable, attraction.

I was knocked out by the attention to detail in every frame, not just in bringing alive the late 1980s, but the sensual vibrations of a simple act of digging through freshly cut peaches, working in sugar with your bare hands. I have never before seen Reitman go into such sensual detail in any of his films.

To tell the truth, I’m dreading what the critics are going to make of this movie. Par for the course when critics can make or break an Oscar contender. But I will wager that many of them have no idea how much it turns a woman on to see a man do something as simple as dumping chili fixings into a pan, cooking them up and feeding them to her. Not to mention changing the oil in her car. You know, just saying.

At the beginning of the screening, Reitman said he made the movie not for his father, of whom he speaks often, but instead for his mother. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why.

As for Oscar, since I know you’re all going to be asking about that, it’s tough to say at this juncture. If it were me, Winslet for lead, Brolin for supporting nominations. Screenplay. I’d also go Art Direction. Best Picture seems a sure bet. I’m not sure about Director because the year has not yet played out. But Labor Day joins the ranks of formidable contenders here in Telluride, including Nebraska, Inside Llewyn Davis and All is Lost.

Why The Butler, Why Now

Next Story »

Telluride Review: Blue is the Warmest Color


  1. Ellsworth
    August 29, 2013

    Thank you Sasha. Your interesting comment about what turns women on reminded me of something Ellen Burstyn has said in this short documentary on ‘Alice Does’t Live Here Anymore.’


    Specifically she talks about how the film is (one of the first) from a woman’s point of view and how she intentionally wanted to show Alice being turned on by the man doing something as simple as fixing a fence, working with his hands, because that is realistic (and not often shown in film).

    It’s an interesting little interview and it made me think about your response …

  2. Tony
    August 29, 2013

    As is the case with Streep and Blanchett, Winslet’s presence guarantees that I will go see it, unless reviews are near-universally awful.

  3. Watermelons
    August 29, 2013

    Is anyone surprised that Kate “THE GREAT” Winslet (The Reader, Finding Neverland) is brilliant in Labor Day.

    As Kate Winslet was in a supporting role in the comedy feature film Movie 43 earlier this year, could we hear “Kate Winslet has TWO nominations tonight!” from Ellen on March 2, 2014?? Something to consider.


  4. Jordan
    August 29, 2013

    Uh, is that a joke?

  5. dela
    August 29, 2013

    Watermelons, you must be overjoyed to see Kate back in the Oscar conversation. :)

  6. CRNM
    August 29, 2013

    OMG, what? You must be joking.

  7. Christophe
    August 29, 2013

    Very shrewd and level-headed comment as usual! Couldn’t agree more!

  8. August 30, 2013

    I think so, yes.

  9. Jpns Viewer
    August 30, 2013

    Main cast looks good.

    Thanks for the capsule review [for the time being], Sasha.

    PS: [I happened to be here when the article first came up] It looks to me the thread has been updated more or less, for instance on the writer’s notion that women might be able to reach the entire movie but more [my words], as well as her citing part of the review (first edition) possibly being ##politically incorrect for some reason; this (editing), at least once. [##I believe Sasha, talking about her own response, has changed the phrase to “maybe even a little dysfunctional [see the fifth paragraph, for the time being]”…]
    If it was just my wild (reading: insane) imagination, my apologies.
    That said, my humble suggestion: Not complaining or anything, my notion being: generally speaking, the original content quoted or written by the editor(s) should remain the same or at least there should be a way to let people (us the readers) know that editing really took place – this way, especially in case of disparity in idea between readers and editors, or so, third parties, especially those who visit the site in the future, could obtain the whole vista of what originally had been incurred. (No offense.)

  10. Unlikely hood
    August 30, 2013

    I’m hearing Sasha say that Labor Day may not be warmly received by those snobby, pretentious fans of Valentines Day and New Years Eve.

  11. Philipp
    August 30, 2013

    Reitman is a very interesting director, I like his movies and I think he already took a new path with the great and uncomfortable Young Adult.

  12. August 30, 2013

    Well if nothing else, I need to learn how to dump chili fixings into a pan. Can’t wait to see this!

  13. Jerry Grant
    August 30, 2013

    Thanks Sasha, I’m really looking forward to this!

    I still think “Up in the Air” got short shrift, and I don’t think it’s true that Reitman simply had a joke for everything or was unwilling to face sincere emotions. I think what has been true of Reitman since “Thank You for Smoking” is, exactly as Sasha puts it here, his “attention to detail in every frame.” Even if you didn’t love the tone of “Juno” (I didn’t), you’ve got to admire his precision and ultimately his ambition with “Up in the Air.” He’s going to be a very accomplished filmmaker.

  14. brendam
    August 30, 2013

    Cate vs Kate for the Oscar?


  15. brendam
    August 30, 2013

    cate for best comedy actress on globes;

    kate for best drama actress on globes;

    by we know now, kate will be supporting actress for paramout…

    So, i could believe (dream, actually!) to see the two extraordinary ladies WINNING thei second Oscars on March/2014?

    Or Naomi will ‘spoil’ everything?

  16. Houstonrufus
    August 30, 2013

    I know this is totally infantile and ridiculous but I own to being a child about this. I hate this Kate the GREAT thing as applied to Winslet. I adore Winslet, but there is only one Kate the Great and we all know who it is. Laugh all you will but we have to pick our battles and this is one!!

  17. Houstonrufus
    August 30, 2013


  18. Rod
    August 31, 2013

    Kate is lead, not supporting, and I think Cate vs Kate will be fantastic. Who will win?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *