Labor Day (2014)

Genre: Drama

Director: Jason Reitman

Writers: Jason Reitman, Joyce Maynard

Starring Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Gattlin Griffith

Rating: ★★★

Labor Day is a film which will most likely get overlooked as it dwells in its last weeks of cinema release; but I think that this more than heartfelt drama deserves some recognition and praise. A Jason Reitman adaptation from the award winning novel of the same name written by Joyce Maynard shows a real battle for love and affection which makes for an entertaining and sometimes tense watch which although not flawless, is ultimately worth-while.

The story focuses on Adele (Kate Winslet), a depressed and recently divorced single mother who has become so afraid of the cruel outside world she only leaves her house once a month for supplies. Her son, Henry (Gattlin Griffith), is a growing young teen who is dealing with the changes of his body, his mind and the pressure of dealing with family life. On the monthly trip to the store Henry bumps into Frank (Josh Brolin), a wounded fearsome escaped convict who has jumped out of a second story hospital window; offering him a ride home he stays with Adele and Henry over the Labor Day weekend whilst the police search the town and he recovers. Adele, Frank and even Henry all battle life for the same thing, affection, and this is a film which tells the story of a fight for that affection and much needed love. Adele falls in love with Frank and remembers how it feels to be loved, cared for and touched whilst Henry finds a fatherly role-model, learning baseball and even mechanics. As Frank and Adele learn each other’s lives’ and pasts they realise their need for each other, however no matter how much love they share, Frank is an on the run convict in a very small village.

The story is very heart-warming and very well-written with what I believe is three in-depth characters that really share and connect with the audience. The character of Frank shares the solemn story of why he is in prison, and we see how deep down he is much softer than his looks. Adele shares her tragedies showing herself the victim of a cruel world, however the bonding between these two strangers is pleasant to watch and seems a somewhat fait driven event. Whilst Henry’s story shows a troubled time experienced by far too many young teens in a modern society making a somewhat realistic leap. Labor Day is well executed with eventually the story tracking forward many years into the future, where the narrator (Tobey Maguire ) is now an older Henry. The ending without too many spoilers is a very nice touch to round off the film.

Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin both give very good performance’s showing their years of experience and making the story fulfil its impact upon the audience. However although a rarity, Labor Day offers a superb cast where everyone gives a great performance, Gattlin Griffith for sure, whilst younger versions and older versions of characters also play their part in adding to a real highlight aspect to the release. The direction too by Reitman was good, there were certain moments and scenes which really stood out especially for cinematography as the lighting was very impressive with these sun filled shots which appeared often.

Labor Day however did struggle slightly and created a few sloppy flaws which consequently let the film down. The pace was too slow considering how quickly the main story started; it seemed to drag especially considering the film focused on a four-day weekend. Although it contained tense moments and scenes as the police searched for Frank and unexpected visitors arrived, I felt there was a missing fulfilment of action or a climax which really turned things around. I also found at times the script and writing although good, to be too on the nose and unnecessary, such as Frank playing with and helping a disabled child to show he Is a good and innocent man which was obvious beforehand. I also found confusing how Frank spent lots of time outside, fixing gutters, walls, cars and making barbeques however despite a much closed in village filled with friendly and nosey surrounding neighbours no one spotted him. It felt that there were so many good elements to Labor Day but its attention to small errors and detail essentially for me, marred the film slightly.

Labor Day has an inviting, sad and warm story which it essentially thrives off and despite some flaws I do believe the positives are much greater in value than the negatives. A great portrayal from all the cast provides great performances, especially from our lead roles. Labor Day is entertaining film, maybe not reaching full potential however it is nevertheless a worthwhile watch which I am glad to have experienced.

 

 

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

Genre: Adventure, Action, Drama, Comedy

Director: Ben Stiller

Writers: Steve Conrad, James Thurber

Starring: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Jon Daly

Rating: ★★★★

Ben Stiller directing and starring in the film of his career. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty has been compared to some big name films and has been frequently labelled “The New Forrest Gump”, but for me it has enough loveable aspects to stand alone and be regarded as having its own story and being its own style of film. Surprisingly funny and powerful, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty has heart and a great storyline with an even better message being conveyed.  Inspiring visuals and cinematography then add the star quality Stiller would have hoped for creating an entertaining watch.

Ben Stiller is Walter Mitty, a dreamer so busy dreaming he doesn’t get to live, always finding himself “zoned-out” in the background of everything that he does. A long-time server and loyal employee of Life Magazine Mitty works as a negative film developer but his position is soon under threat due to the magazine turning to the world wide web,  revealing there will only be one more issue of the global magazine printed before the online version is launched. When photojournalist Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) sends Walter “the best work of his life” for the final issue, the intended final front page, shot negative 25 goes missing. Stepping out of his daydreams Walter Mitty goes on the most courageous adventure of his life in attempt to track down the mysterious photographer and the missing photograph that takes him half way across the world.

The adapted classic tale also focuses on the growing relationship between Walter Mitty and his co-worker Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig) that sets up a rather heart-felt romance and relationship. The film in a whole is very pleasant and heart-warming whilst at the same time surprisingly funny from script to scenes. In the opening of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty the focus is very much on the constant drifts from reality by Mitty, where he rescues small dogs from fires and makes harsh compassions between his boss and the beloved Dumbledore. The rest of the film though, focuses on the idea of reality both however are very action packed and entertaining.

The art of enjoying this film is to stretch your imagination; at times the humour is silly and so is the story but despite this it is hilarious and entertaining if you let it be. The gags are great and the majority are due to the unfortunate events in Walter’s life, the comedy almost hints at Stiller’s previous work, especially Zoolander.  The action is the highlight however as the missing shot takes Walter half way round the world, to the jaws of a shark and to the face of an erupting volcano, providing more than enough escapism.

The thing I loved most about the story of Walter Mitty is the element of truth and realism it holds; especially speaking about myself I can firmly say we can often find ourselves drifting from reality into daydreams and wild imaginative thoughts all with the same hope of one day experiencing them. Ben Stiller and Steve Conrad have really worked well together and have successfully achieved a great adaption from James Thurber’s classic, creating a film we can all relate to.

I can see The Secret Life of Walter Mitty achieving many awards and much recognition; technically I believe the film flourished in terms of visuals and cinematography. The vast amounts of long shots and wide shots  showing off scenery views from mountains to long roads was awe inspiring and a real treat for the eyes. The score was also a real gem, especially the clever inclusion of the classic Space Oddity by David Bowie.

The Secret Life of Walter isn’t perfect, at times the narrative has flaws and the script comes across too cheesy making it look like it’s trying just too hard for laughs and gags. However you leave the cinema feeling inspired and there’s a real special element about this film that is quite unique. The ending is a real heart-warmer and glorifies a fantastic piece of writing, if you’re thinking of seeing The Secret Life of Walter Mitty than I can only ask you take it for what it is and then you will really realise how great this film is.