Will ‘Labor Day’ work Oscar magic for Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin?

Despite building great buzz at Telluride for both “Juno” (2007) and “Up in the Air” (2009), Jason Reitman skipped the festival circuit two years ago with “Young Adult.” That comedy-drama starring Oscar champ Charlize Theron made minimal impact, reaping little awards attention and just so-so box office.  

Reitman returned to Telluride this year with his adaptation of Joyce Maynard‘s “Labor Day,” the story of a single mother (Kate Winslet) and her son (Gatlin Griffith) who give shelter to an escaped convict (Josh Brolin) in the late summer of 1987. 

The first reviews are promising and certainly make the movie one to watch when it screens at the much larger Toronto film festival next week. 

Peter Debruge, Variety: In the early going, Reitman struggles to balance the competing feelings the scenario evokes. He can count on Winslet, who has long since mastered the role of affection-starved wife in “Little Children” and “Mildred Pierce,” to communicate Adele’s fragility in a matter of a few short scenes, but it’s much harder to accept that a wanted man can be as sensitive as Frank. 

Chris Willman, IndieWire: Winslet does as fine a job of keeping her inherent strength under wraps as possible, but Brolin has little to work with character-wise as he ever has on the big screen, playing an unfailingly righteous, tender and impossibly sexy figure who’d be the perfect man if he could ever leave the house. (Actually, his 24/7 presence makes him even more swoon-worthy). The most impressive turn comes from Gattlin Griffith as the mom-worshipping 8th grader whose shy insularity suggests deeper layers than Brolin’s strong, silent type is good for. 

While Winslet works to make the cut in the competitive Best Actress race, Brolin is already in fourth place for Best Supporting Actor. He contended in this category back in 2008 for “Milk,” losing to the late Heath Ledger (“The Dark Knight”). 

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