Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Labor Day-The Movie

Our book club- The Beach Club Book Club- had the opportunity to read Joyce Maynard's 2009 novel, Labor Day, now reissued by William Morrow, and to see the movie version, written and directed by Jason Reitman (Juno, Up In The Air), courtesy of William Morrow Publishers.

We had a delicious lunch at Grill Fire in Rockville Centre, where we discussed the novel. We all agreed that the book was a good one, and we felt sympathy for Adele, the agoraphobic single mom of teenage Henry.

One of the debates was whether Adele was a good mother; after all, she allowed a strange man in their home not knowing what his story was. The general consensus was that Adele would never do anything to endanger her son, that she felt that Frank was a good man. She was trying to be helpful.

When we saw the scene in the movie where Frank approaches Henry in the Pricemart, the movie gave you a much bigger sense of menace from Frank than in the book. Josh Brolin played Frank, and he excels at playing the menacing drifter. We all thought that was an interesting way to play that.

In another scene, Frank ties Adele to a chair with rope. In the novel, he tied her up with her scarves. Again, that change gave a deeper sense of menace. You weren't really sure yet of the kind of man Frank was.

The acting in the movie was terrific- we all liked Kate Winslet's portrayal of Adele, and her willingness to look lost and unglamorous. Brolin was great, as always. The big surprise was Gattlin Griffith, who played Henry. I swear he looked and acted exactly as I pictured him in my head when reading the book. This kid is one to watch for in the future. And Tom Lipinski, who played a younger Frank, looked so much Josh Brolin it was eerie.

This movie is marketed as a love story, but as it is telling the story from the adult Henry's point of view (voiced by Toby McGuire), it is also a coming-of-age story. I really felt it was as much of Henry's story as Adele and Frank's love story.

One scene that really affected us took place near the end of the movie between a high school aged Henry and his father, played by Clark Gregg. Gregg is explaining to his son why he left Henry and Adele and he apologizes. It is a powerful scene, and it brought me to tears. Gregg is such an underrated actor. We liked how the movie followed the book in not making the father the bad guy.

A criticism we had involved Frank's backstory. We got to hear Adele tell Frank what happened in her past to make her so sad, but Frank's story is told in quick-cut flashbacks. If you didn't read the book, his story would confuse you- particularly why he ended up in prison and what happened to his son. Reitman should have had the scene from the book where Frank tells Adele what happened.

Overall, we thought the movie was a terrific adaptation of the novel. It followed the book pretty faithfully and took much of its dialogue from Maynard's book. We liked the look of the movie, and all of the parts were well cast, even the small ones.

Labor Day is a wonderful date movie (with Valentine's Day coming up), but it's also a good movie to go to with your girlfriends. There's much to discuss afterwards, and this is a rare adaptation that is as good as the book.

I would like to give a shout-out to the Bow Tie Cinemas in Franklin Square. It is a well-run, very clean (the bathrooms were immaculate!) theater and the manager greeted when we arrived and said goodbye to us when we left. We felt very welcome there.
Discussing the book at Grill Fire

At the Bow Tie Cinemas in Franklin Square
The trailer for Labor Day is here.

My review of the book Labor Day is here.


  1. I saw the movie but had not read the book - thanks for the comparisons - I kept wondering when/how/if it departed from the book. I enjoyed the movie and agree - Henry was played wonderfully and the actor will be one to watch!

  2. What a fun day. I can't wait to see this movie.