Trailer Face-Off: Labor Day vs. Dom Hemingway

Published November 14, 2013

Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: Labor Day vs. Don Hemingway, two films that tackle lawlessness in very different ways.

PremiseLabor Day begins with a depressed, single mother (Kate Winslet) and her son. They offer a wounded, threatening man a ride home from the grocery store one day, and, as it turns out, he’s a murderer and a fugitive, who hides in their home. The film explores the growing romantic relationship between Adele (Winslet) and Frank, the convict, played by Josh Brolin. Don Hemingway‘s titular character is also an ex-convict, but the movie has as much lighter tone. After serving 12 years in prison, the recently released Hemingway (Jude Law) is back to get the money he’s owed. He teams up with his friend (Richard E. Grant) and gets involved with Demian Bichir. He also tries to repair his relationship with his daughter (Emilia Clarke) and his grandson. Neither forbidden love nor straight-outta-prison is a novel premise, but we’re going to go with Labor Day.Advantage: Tie

CastLabor Day boats Actress of Our Generation, Kate Winslet. That she plays opposite Josh Brolin, who has the face and voice of a likeable anti-hero is even better. Winslet’s son is played by young actor Dylan Minette, who appears to give quite the performance. Don Hemingway lets Jude Law do what Jude does best: exude way more charm than any man seemingly could. We’re also excited to see Emilia Clarke, who plays Law’s daughter, in contemporary clothing. This is a close one since Law’s performance is so spectacularly over the top, but the trifecta of Winslet, Brolin, and a promising young actor gives Labor Day the edge.Advantage: Labor Day

DirectorLabor Day is directed (and written!) by Jason Reitman, who can brag about Young Adult, Up in the Air, Juno, and Thank You for Smoking. Richard Shepard, the director of Don Hemingway’s biggest directing title yet is a few episodes of Girls. We like Girls, but we love Reitman’s work.Advantage: Labor Day

VisualsLabor Day is a movie about confinement, and the film reflects that stylistically. Though turning Winslet into a hausfrau doesn’t hide her beauty, her drab clothing and the movie’s gray tones and deserted streets aren’t nearly as visually arresting as Don Hemingway’s romp through London, full of ridiculously tinted sunglasses, vulgarly large pools, and for some reason, the countryside. If Labor Day is the whiskey, Don Hemingway is the pickle juice.Advantage: Don Hemingway

Facial HairBoth Brolin and Law sport some great cheek accessories. Brolin has the goatee of a hardened and damaged man, and we get a transformation when he shaves it off to pretend he’s the handy man. Along with gaining 30 pounds for the role of Don, Law also grew some serious muttonchops. Look at those things!Advantage: Don Hemingway

The VerdictIt’s hard to choose between a film wrought with longing, family drama, and tragedy and a wild, witty, totally absurd dark comedy. Though tonally and aesthetically opposites, both films show a lot of promise. In an ideal world, we’ll see Labor Day when we need a cry and Don Hemingway when we need to spit out our movie-theater popcorn. That said, if Dom Hemingway isn’t good, it will probably be terrible. The worst Labor Day could be is mediocre. Winner: Labor Day

Trailer Face-Off runs every Thursday. For more, click here.