These, however, are both quickly dispelled – the first by remembering that not everyone has a Toby Macguire problem and that he’s only doing the voiceover (this should be his thing); the second by remembering that Labor Day is based on a novel and isn’t the result of lazy screenwriting. It’s not a paperback thriller, either, but a coming of age tale about a thirty-year-old recalling the tried-and-tested hostage scenario turned romantic life experience for all concerned.
Plenty of films have used this set-up, but most are essentially popcorn movies with flashes of action and a death-drenched ending. Most also lack the omniscient narrator that screams “serious fiction”. But that’s what this is. This film might be compared to No Country For Old Men, in that it makes the following argument: these things can and do happen, so why must they be restricted to their own genre? Much like NCOM, it delivers the plot in a different way that seems much more interesting to watch. Also much like NCOM, it has Josh Brolin in it. It’s a film about characters and how the plotted events affect them, rather than about how the plot will resolve itself before everyone’s lives go back to normal.
There are also some white flags as well as red ones (if I was American and fully understood the concept of Labor Day, there’d be some kind of joke in there). For one thing, it’s directed by Jason Reitman, who gave us the brilliant Up in the Air and Thank You for Smoking. For another, Toby Macguire only does the voiceover. If you’ve no popcorn handy, Josh Brolin shows us how to make a peach cobbler.
Based on the plot and the source material, it also looks to have a decent mixture of serious drama and some thriller-style tension that probably explains why the studios decided to adapt it. If I were you, I’d go and see it.