Labor Day was marketed as a suspense/thriller, at least in my region. While there are elements of this, it is not the focus of the movie. It is, frankly, something much more interesting.
However, it isn’t an easy movie to define and market, any more than many of Jason Reitman’s other films are, such as Up in the Air, Young Adult, or Thank You for Smoking. Reitman is becoming his own brand; a director that you go to see because he took it on regardless of the subject, though for very different reasons than other “brand” directors such as Anderson. Reitman excels at handling complex and subtle subject matter to create real-life, compelling stories that keep you interested and affect you emotionally. That Reitman works on all sides of the camera as writer, director, and producer only makes his command of the craft more impressive.
He also casts incredibly well. Brolin (MIB3), Winslet (Carnage), and relative newcomer Griffith deliver a a collection of conflicted performances that I’m sorry I missed in theaters. There is no simple story here for any one of them. There is no simple path to resolution either. But, for all of its intensity, it is really just a very quiet story about love and family. They are supported by a host of faces you’ll know, and a couple you won’t; as a whole, the world comes together believably. How well the results reflect the book, I can’t say, but it certainly works on its own without knowing anything about the originating material.
Saying any more about the film would diminish or oversell it. Hopefully, however, I’ve said enough to get you to watch it. It never really found its audience, being dropped at the end of this past January, and it really deserved one.