Love triangles have for the most part, been a staple of the romantic comedy or romantic drama. For this narrative to succeed, the screenwriter(s) have to make this very basic and predictable story their own.
The 1999 movie Three to Tango stars three 1990’s television stars in the lead roles. Charles Newman (Dylan McDermott) is a businessman who asks Oscar Novak (Matthew Perry) to be a companion of sorts for his mistress, Amy Post (Neve Campbell). Charles thinks that Oscar is gay. But Oscar is straight. As Oscar spends more time with Amy, he begins to fall in love with her.
As rom-coms go, there is almost nothing revolutionary about this film. Charles is a dick, Oscar is a nice guy, and Amy is the woman in between them. I certainly appreciate that it is a small step in the direction of a realistic portrayal of LGBTQ characters. But in 2021 terms, its not exactly the ground breaking moment it could have been. My major issue is that Amy has no agency or life other than being a figure of romantic and sexual attraction. Granted, this movie is twenty two years old, but it has not aged well in my opinion.
Romantic dramas and coming of age stories usually fall into two categories: Sappy and predictable or suspenseful and unpredictable.
Labor Day, thankfully falls into the second category.
Based on the book of the same name by Joyce Maynard, Labor Day is a love story, but also a coming of age story.
Adele (Kate Winslet) is a divorced single mother who has become anxious and isolated since her husband Gerald (Clark Gregg) left her for another woman. Her son, Henry (Gattlin Griffith) tries to make up for his father’s absence, but is lacking. When a convict, Frank (Josh Brolin) uses them as a means to hide until he can escape from the police, he becomes the father Henry needs and provides the love that Adele needs.
I enjoyed this movie. It sort of had a Wonder Years type of narrative. Toby Maguire narrates the story as an adult Henry, remembering those fateful 5 days. It could have been sappy, cliched or predictable. But it wasn’t. I was on the edge of my seat the entire movie. Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin have electric chemistry, Gattlin Griffith plays his character as both a young boy on the edge of growing up, but also taking on the responsibility of being the man of the house.