January is rolling right along with its last two major releases, Labor Day and That Awkward Moment. These two movies are geared towards two completely different audiences. Someone needs to take down the reigning box office champ, Ride Along. Will it be the Jason Reitman’s take on Stockholm Syndrome or will Zac Efron and his buddies somehow earn your money?
This movie, based on Joyce Maynard’s 2009 novel is Jason Reitman’s first writing/directing venture into full-on drama. He brought us smart, if not a little dark, comedies with Thank You for Smoking, Juno and Up in the Air. Sadly, he also made Young Adult, so he’s not perfect.
Labor Day follows the perspective of 13 year old, Henry Wheeler (Gattlin Griffith). The story largely takes place in the late ’80s. Henry lives with his single mother Adele (Kate Winslet), who has never been quite right in the head since her divorce several years earlier. She rarely leaves the house, but on one of their infrequent shopping trips, they are accosted by a fugitive (Josh Brolin), who forces them to take him to their house. Though, he is clearly a criminal and is being hunted by local police, they accept him for the weekend and soon start to see that maybe he’s not that bad after all. In fact, permanently-traumatized Adele starts to fall for him. In the span of a long weekend, Frank the fugitive goes from kidnapper to love interest and father figure.
I’m honestly still split on whether I liked this movie or not. On one hand, it is melodramatic mush that feels far too unfocused. On the other, the characters are believable, the writing is good and the emotions hit their intended mark.
Winslet’s character change from panic-addled mother to confident matriarch happened too quickly for me. Especially because she and her passive son take whatever Frank has to say at face value. There is definitely more to his story, but it is unfolded to the audience in short flashbacks.
Using Henry to drive the story is a good thing that wasn’t pushed far enough. While leaving this strange man and his mother at home, Henry goes through a mini coming of age story during the weekend. However, his discovery of girls feels like a tacked-on plot that took away from characterizing his mother and Frank more. I wish they went one way or another, instead of poorly balancing the two stories.
Despite the many flaws, there is a underlying intensity throughout the movie. You, as the audience, are caught up in the Stockholm Syndrome and you don’t want Frank to ever get caught. His presence in the home has essentially cured Adele of her depression. In turn, his absence would possibly put her in an even worse state than before. The third act felt complete with sweet and thrilling moments that saved the movie.
My equation for this movie is:
‘Mud’ + ‘My Girl’ – bee stings x good writing = ‘Labor Day’
There’s no need to see Labor Day on the big screen. Wait for the rental.
That Awkward Moment
I have no clue as to why this movie is called That Awkward Moment. The title alludes to having to determine the relationship with random hookups. I’m not going to get too upset when a terrible movie has a equally terrible title.
The real awkward moment took place when I took my seat (by myself) at the theater and saw that the rest of the crowd was comprised of 2 dozen teenage girls. Also, maybe the real awkward moment is me admitting that I actually paid for this movie.
That Awkward Moment stars Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station, Chronicle) and Miles Teller (Footloose). This film would have you believe that each of these twenty-somethings are incredibly successful New Yorkers. With Jordan’s character about to go through a divorce, these buddies come up with a bro code that they will all stay single, so they can hook up with as many ladies as possible. It doesn’t take long for each of these guys to become very attached to their lady friends, and they are afraid to tell their buddies about it, because they’ll be breaking the pact.
I feel dumber for even trying to be straight-faced about this movie’s “plot.” Basically, Zac Efron keeps a roster of random girls so he can get booty calls whenever he likes. When he starts to have strong feelings for Imogen Poots (yes, that’s a real name, not a Pokemon), he fights it by hooking up with anyone he can find. Basically, he’s just a great guy. (End sarcasm) He’s the type of guy that purposely doesn’t attend a funeral with his girlfriend because he doesn’t want her to think things are serious.
This is the kind of movie that will introduce the girlfriend’s dad an hour into the movie, just so, in the next scene, he can die so the movie can manufacture forced drama. I laughed out loud when the Poots called Efron crying about her recently-introduced dad dying. I don’t think the girls in the crowd appreciated that.
Oh, and that’s the other thing. Based on the trailer and posters, you’d imagine this movie being funny. The “fun” dialogue between these guys felt incredibly forced. I swear, at one point, I heard crickets. I felt like this movie needed a “live studio audience” so they could tell you when to laugh, because it was never quite clear. You know, kind of like The Big Bang Theory.
The chemistry of everyone involved amounted to nothing. Efron is not quite ready for the big leagues and this movie proves it. Being smug will only get you so far. I was very disappointed in Teller, who apparently is a rising star, and Jordan, who actually is a good actor. This movie won’t hurt their careers in the long run, but it makes me worried about their rumored casting in the next Fantastic Four reboot.
If you want 90 minutes to feel like 150, then you should see That Awkward Moment. It’s not a comedy, nor is it a successful drama. I think I can say that I hated this movie. Skip it. Please.