I'm not really sure if summarising the plot of Labor Day is a plausible option. This is simply because nothing happens in this movie. Literally nothing. The film follows the story of Henry (Gattlin Griffith), who's living with his depressed, single mother, Adele (Kate Winslet). When going shopping one morning, the two are confronted by bleeding, runaway prisoner, Frank (Josh Brolin). They hesitantly decide to take him into their house and see to his wounds. Stuff happens. Romance enthrals. Good people are bad. Bad people are good. Who really cares?
If you haven't got the message already, I wasn't a fan of Labor Day. While director Jason Reitman is certainly ambitious about the project, it could have been something more than what we got. The idea behind it isn't too bad, it could certainly make for an interesting movie. What unfolds after the set-up, which isn't too engaging in the movie either although I'm unsure if the book is just as dull, isn't entertaining. Pacing decides to take a leisurely stroll somewhere else, where this film can't find it. There's no structure or real story. Even films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, famous for breaking the three-act structure, had a story. Even goddamn Scary Movie 5 had a story. A repulsive one at that.
Labor Day comes across like failed Oscar bait. Reitman, who's 2009 film Up in the Air received 6 Oscar nominations, feels like he's trying to craft a film so unusual, powerful and deep (and based on a book, a surefire win with the Academy for some unknown reason), something that he feels could be worthy of an Oscar. Instead we get whatever the hell this movie was. Fans of the book appear to be rejoicing over it, but as someone who has no prior knowledge of the source material, they've made it difficult for me to enjoy.
Towards the end of the movie, things get a bit messy. Their perfectly kept secret, unbelievably so, begins to show cracks. Then the film appears to end. It's come to a conclusion, or so we think. We unfortunately pick up a few years later. There's just a scene or two in this area of the character's lives. It then cuts ahead a lot of years later. Again, just a scene or two here. That's when the film finally decides its had enough at this place, packs up its bags, and is replaced by the closing credits. The film tries to summarise so much about these character's lives in so little time, resulting in a convoluted and unwatchable finale.
To sum up, Labor Day's director is certainly ambitious about the project, but this misfired Oscar bait fails to concoct a storyline, a structure, an engaging premise or a watchable final act. Perhaps the book wasn't as terrible, we'll hope.