TELLURIDE, Colo. — Director Jason Reitman suspects he will get the same "
But if audiences at the Telluride Film Festival, where "Labor Day" is having its world premiere this weekend, are raising that issue, it's because it is initially hard to comprehend the troubled world that Adele (played in Reitman's film by
Divorced after a devastating family trauma, Adele is living in Massachusetts with her adolescent son, Henry (Gattlin Griffith). One step away from being a full-blown agoraphobic, Adele has developed an unhealthy dependence upon Henry, whose budding sexuality — he's starting to notice small things, like girls' bra straps — is complicating his relationship with his mother.
In one rare visit to the outside world, Adele and Henry meet Frank (
Her choices are obviously based more on instinct than wisdom, and the unspoken imperatives behind her decision anchor the story. It's part of what captivated Reitman when he first read the book several years ago.
"This is probably the most faithful adaptation I have made or will ever make," said the writer-director, who previously adapted Christopher Buckley's "Thank You for Smoking" and Walter Kirn's
While it took Reitman, 35, seven years to work out the screenplay for "Up in the Air," he wrote his adaptation of "Labor Day" in a matter of months.
At first, he intended to make the movie after filming "Up in the Air" — which was nominated for six
In many ways, "Labor Day," which
Its camera moves, editing and scoring are decidedly old-fashioned, and unlike Reitman's other films, its lead characters don't hide behind glib dialogue or sometimes operate like preternatural versions of real people — as did Ellen Page in "Juno" or
Reitman's personal life has in the past paralleled (and been reflected in) his films: When he directed the adoption story "Juno," he had recently become a father. And while he was making "Labor Day," he was working as a recently divorced husband. A scene between Henry and his father talking about the breakup with Adele, Reitman said, is the best evidence of how the collapse of the filmmaker's marriage is reflected on screen.
Reitman said he connected to Maynard's novel, which was partially inspired by an uncanny letter exchange the writer had with a jailed felon, most directly through Henry.
"I was pretty close to his age in 1987," Reitman said of the year when the story is set. "And I remember being younger and having that bond with my mother and I was just starting to figure out sexuality. And Joyce just nailed it."
It's not Maynard's first film adaptation, and Reitman worked closely with her. The author, whose teenage romance with J.D. Salinger was memorialized in her book "At Home in the World," wrote the novel "To Die For," which was the source material for the 1995
In both the novel "Labor Day" and the film, Henry is more patriarch and husband than he is son, so when Frank ties up Adele in one scene, the young boy looks at his mother not out of concern but out of jealousy.
"He understands something is physically happening between his mother and this man, but he doesn't understand sex or how complex adult desire and love is," Reitman said.
In following the novel closely, Reitman lavished particular attention on a key scene where Frank teaches Adele and Henry how to bake a pie.
The director's shooting of the dessert-making sequence is to pastry what
Even with all of the extraordinary circumstances that bring Adele and Frank together, Reitman said, "Labor Day" is a more conventional story than it might first appear.
"It's a traditional romance," the director said, "between two people who really need each other."