Sunday, 23 March 2014

REVIEW - LABOUR DAY


Nostalgia for the present. Jason Reitman's new film sees him assume a wistful tone that he quite obviously understands but has little understanding of how to apply. His brash evocation of an era is set in fiction and fantasy, and is thus phony - what he is nostalgic for is what he is actively creating, and he seems to be engendering a romantic response in us in the instant that ought to have taken years to blossom. Yet, as the yarn it so blatantly is, Labour Day is rarely, if ever, possessed of so many flaws that it is not at least an entertaining way to spend a couple of hours, if not a stimulating one. As dripping in melodrama as it is, Joyce Maynard's story is rich with dramatic potential, and wouldn't it perhaps be an injustice to deny this adaptation full opportunity to wallow in that melodrama, as melodrama insists? Reitman pollutes the film with heady, potent moments of sensuality both fulfilled and unfulfilled - it's this forthright approach of his, as writer as much as director, that cheapens the stories he tells and does his cast and crew a disservice, but it's effective, I'll admit. It appears to have replaced his customary snark, all but entirely absent from Labour Day, and when said snark does threaten to resurface, we find ourselves thankful for the swap. Awash in glowing tones of caramel broken up by vivid greens and faded blues, Eric Steelberg's cinematography is pretty in a way that's thoroughly sickly, but also thoroughly appropriate. Cast performances are muted in a less stylised sense, and Reitman's constant attentiveness to his actors pairs nicely with this newfound restraint.