The 40th Telluride Film Festival has kicked off and is now underway, and Jason Reitman's "Labor Day" has just screened and a handful of reviews are starting to trickle out. Other than the mostly positive reception, what seems to be shared among critics' observations is that the film heralds a change of pace for Reitman, emanating an earnestness rather than the snarky tone that seemed to pervade the director's previous work ("Juno," "Up in the Air," "Thank You for Smoking"), a change that most see as ultimately for the best but is also not completely effortless. What does seem to be unanimous is the affection for the performances, particularly Winslet, who plays a single mother who takes in a convicted killer (Josh Brolin) into her household. After Telluride, "Labor Day" is set to screen at Toronto as well before its limited release in the states on Christmas Day. Check out what the critics have to say below.
Eric Kohn, Indiewire: "Because it adheres to a noticeably restrained literary style, 'Labor Day' at times feels almost too muted for its rather bizarre subject matter, which finds an escaped convict falling in love with a woman he takes hostage and becoming a surrogate father for her son. But Reitman largely cedes control to a tightly wound cast and lets the somber tone find its way."
Kristopher Tapley, HitFix: "My immediate takeaway from Jason Reitman's 'Labor Day,' which kicks off the Telluride Film Festival this afternoon at the annual patrons screening, was that it was an unexpected mature step for the filmmaker who has offered up such self-aware films as 'Thank You For Smoking,' 'Juno,' 'Up In The Air' and 'Young Adult.' There isn't a whiff of that tone here whatsoever. The edge that has defined Reitman's work has been set aside while a more refined, lived-in aesthetic has taken hold."
Marlow Stern, The Daily Beast: "Winslet, in particular, should garner some award consideration for her turn as a woman so beaten down by life she can barely hold a pen without shaking uncontrollably. It’s a far more measured—and affecting—performance than her boisterous, Oscar-winning turn in The Reader."
Peter Debruge, Variety: "'Labor Day' brims with such carefully observed details, all of them a little too elegant to feel entirely genuine, and yet impossible to fault — apart from the underlying premise, of course, which is plenty troubling: that a misunderstood killer is just the father/lover this incomplete family needs to feel whole again."
Chris Willman, The Playlist: "Give him credit for breaking with trademark satirical impulses so completely that counting the laughs in his self-penned script—based on a 2010 Joyce Maynard novel—doesn't require two hands. But the (sorry) laboriousness of the plot's romance-novel machinations ensures there'll be at least a few dry eyes in the house."