I read Joyce Maynard’s Labor Day back in April and I just recently watched the film adaptation starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin. As I was reading the book I remember thinking that it would make a great movie. I could see certain scenes playing out in my mind. Director Jason Reitman brought many of those scenes to life just as I imagined them. One of my favourite scenes in the book, the one where the convict gives a lesson on making pie, was also one of the best scenes of the movie. But overall I felt the movie fell pretty flat. The book never felt overly sentimental or romantic, more sad and twisted. But the film was kind of sappy. Or as one critic put it, “more sugary than a cronut.”
Author Joyce Maynard really liked the adaptation, though. In fact, she liked the thing that I disliked the most:
When I write, I have a little movie playing in my head. I’m typing as fast as I can—this was certainly true with this book—just to keep up with the movie that I’m watching. I hope that I will write a movie, because I think in movie pictures, And it is almost scene for scene in the movie, except for the brilliant thing Jason did with the flashbacks of Frank’s story, sort of stretching that out across the movie. I hope it worked for you; it worked for me.
(Source: Roger Ebert Interviews)
Those flashbacks didn’t work for me at all. And I thought Kate Winslet was going to be perfect as the agoraphobic mother, but both her and Josh Brolin didn’t really do the characters Maynard created justice. So I ended up feeling disappointed by the end of the film. Disappointed with an incredible craving for peach pie.
There are many harsh film reviews of Labor Day out there, so I won’t dwell on it. (But read this one, if you’re interested.) What I will say is that the movie was pretty true to the book in many ways, but not in any of the ways that made the book good. But reading Labor Day is well worth your time. Joyce Maynard is a fantastic writer and I’ll definitely be reading her other books.