Adele (Kate Winslet) is a broken, frightened bird of a woman. Her son Henry (Gattlin Griffith), getting ready to enter junior high, does most of the household errands, going to the grocery store, the bank, etc. Of course it is on their monthly trip out of the house together, to buy new school clothes for the first day of school, that a creepazoid guy (Josh Brolin) with blood on his shirt firmly asks them for a ride. A ride to their house.
He says his name is Frank, and he just had his appendix removed. But he is limping because he jumped out of the hospital window. Why would he do that? Oh, yeah, he’s an escaped CONVICT. Oh, no, he’s never hurt anyone, no ma’am. Except the TV news says he was in prison for MURDER. Well, there’s that.
Now, like any surly convict with blood on his shirt that is hiding on in your home, Frank quickly begins to make himself useful, cooking meals, repairing porches, changing oil, and other stereotypical manly things. Each train whistle that goes by in the distance becomes just another delayed departure excuse. The cops are prowling the streets looking for him, but gosh, Adele needs a man, and Henry needs a father. Frank even shows Henry how to properly throw a baseball! I’m not even kidding.
Surprisingly early in the plot (he’s been there, what, a day?), Frank is showing Adele how to make a perfect, moist, peach pie, Ghost-pottery-scene style (groan), and I had to stifle a giggle. I had to double-check to make sure that this wasn’t a Nicolas Sparks story. (It’s not, it is based on a book by Joyce Maynard.)
I overheard a woman say later that she thought the film was beautiful. The quality folks involved (Winslet, Brolin, and director Jason Reitman) sure take this bizarre romance very seriously. A thin balancing act between a tense Stockholm-syndrome kidnapping thriller, and moist-peach-pie lonely-woman porn, it never quite works. What is Adele thinking? Sure, Frank has good, strong arms, and is way manlier than her ex-husband… but, well, I guess since the story takes place in 1987, so she can’t really Google him.
Labor Day is apparently tailor-made for fans of escaped felon/lonely housewife slash fiction. Is that a thing? Heck if I know, but if you fall for that sort of fantasy, it is the movie for you!