There’s no burger phone in Labor Day
, but Jason Reitman’s film makes up for it with the most patently absurd baking sequence you’ll ever see. Frank (Josh Brolin), an escaped prisoner with a heart of gold, woos a dispirited single mother named Adele (Kate Winslet) over a dreamy weekend in 1987. Adele is all tics and stutters—you feel like Frank might knock her over just by breathing too heavily in her direction. Every potentially menacing thing that this on-the-lam Casanova says while politely kidnapping Adele and her seventh-grade son Henry betrays a certain sensitivity. Though you may wonder about his innocence—he’s a convicted murderer—the fact that he’s a standup guy is never called into question. Theirs is a culinary romance: Frank spoon-feeds her chili (she’s tied up at this point, natch), they interlock fingers while making a peach pie, and you won’t believe the soaring melody that accompanies Adele's first bite of his homemade biscuits. Though there’s something to be said for Reitman’s newfound sincerity, the self-satisfaction that colored his earlier efforts (Juno
and Up in the Air
especially) has merely been replaced by a self-seriousness that manages to be simultaneously humorless and laughable.