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  • Damaris Chanza

Like the Holiday, Labor Day is an Odd Movie

With Labor Day weekend approaching, I thought I'd watch a movie that shares a name with the holiday.

Jason Reitman directed Labor Day starring Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet. The movie is based on a book of the same name by Joyce Maynard. It's about a depressed divorcee and her son taken hostage by an escaped murderer during Labor Day weekend. However, the three of them form an unlikely bond and find out the convict is more than his criminal ways.

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Before watching the movie, I glanced at a brief description similar to the one I provided. With such a description, I thought I was about to watch an action or suspense-filled movie that occurs during a holiday weekend, thus further complicating things similar to Independence Day.

I initially thought I was right. Tobey Maguire narrates reminiscent thoughts of his childhood self as images of that self, taking care of his depressed mother, Adele, appear. The lighting and set made everything feel dreamy, a stark contrast from the molest-y vibes initially exuding from the murderer, Frank.

While shopping at a department store with his mom, the son, Henry, wandered off only to be approached by a large, wounded man dressed as an employee, not so subtly threatening to convince his mother to give him a ride. Frank stoically sits in the backseat of the car with his arm casually around Henry, demanding to be taken to their house. Frank told the truth about his injury and his escape. He claimed nothing throws people off more than the truth. Now, I know the way Frank spoke was meant to come off as endearing and almost sexy, but in those initial moments, it was creepy to talk to strangers with such comfort while holding them hostage, albeit voluntarily.

There were also these weird scenes of a man and a woman falling in love and having a baby. The scenes were confusing and didn't give enough details to determine if they were flashbacks or flash-forwards, and they were oddly non-sequential. Near the end, it's revealed that the man is Frank, and the scenes are about how he accidentally murdered his wife and baby. The audience is meant to sympathize with Frank after taking a woman and her son hostage.

The slow and sensual way Frank voluntarily tied up Adele so she wouldn't have to lie about it, to the way he carefully spoon-fed her chili when she was tied up made it seem like he would abuse her if not her son sexually. Instead, they fell in love, and their passion erupted in a sensual pie-making sequence.

Frank and Adele's Romeo and Juliet-style forbidden romance would have been more effective without the parallel storyline of Henry's sexual awakening. The imagery surrounding his weird sexual thoughts, narrated by Maguire's naturally awkward voice, was discomforting. It distracted from the happiness of watching Adele blossom out of her depression and Frank finally getting seen as more than a criminal. His crass friend, who deems herself his girlfriend with the eating disorder, made things even worse by planting doubt. With the existing drama, this extra plotline was unnecessary.

Adele decides to uproot her family to go on the run with Frank in Canada in an attempt to maintain her happiness. The decision was odd and rash, but the entire movie could be described that way, so why not another weird thing? The love story has a tragic ending when Frank is caught and charged with kidnapping; he made it look that way so they wouldn't be accused of aiding a criminal and has to serve fifteen years. Henry grows up to become a baker after his experience with a peach pie. After doing his time, Frank and Adele get to live happily ever after.

I didn't read the book the movie is based on, so I'm not sure how accurate it is to the source material. What I do know is the film is confusing. Its description suggests an action thriller, but its reality is more coming-of-age romance, but even those categories don't feel quite right.

I may continue pondering such an odd movie for the rest of this weird holiday weekend. You shouldn't, though. It would be best if you relaxed from all the hard work you put in every day by snuggling in front of the tv, watching a good movie, or drinking a rum and coke by the grill, enjoying one of the last days of summer.

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