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Overall Rating

Awesome: 30.23%
Worth A Look40.7%
Just Average: 25.58%
Pretty Crappy: 2.33%
Sucks: 1.16%

9 reviews, 32 user ratings

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Pieces of April
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by EricDSnider

"Katie Holmes' last good performance before losing her mind."
4 stars

How many films dedicate themselves to showing the true spirit of Thanksgiving? Usually Christmas gets all the press when it comes to true-spirit-showing, and Thanksgiving is seen merely as a harbinger, a lesser holiday whose arrival indicates the coming of a bigger, better one.

"Pieces of April" is all about Thanksgiving, though, and it's all about it in a loving, funny and genuinely poignant way. The story is unfolded so carefully and subtly that the sensitivity of it all sneaks up on you: You thought you were watching a low-key comedy about Turkey Day mishaps, but really it was a family drama all along.

April Burns (Katie Holmes) is a young woman, maybe 20 years old, who has ditched her family in Pennsylvania and moved to New York City. She does not seem to have had aspirations to theater or music; rather, she seems only to have wanted to get away from her mother, Joy (Patricia Clarkson), with whom she has never gotten along. She now lives in a dreadful apartment with her boyfriend Bobby (Derek Luke) and has, for reasons she does not explain and perhaps doesn't even know, invited her family up for Thanksgiving dinner, which she will prepare.

Back at home, we meet the family as they search for Mom, who is already sitting in the car, waiting to go. April's sister Beth (Alison Pill), the "good one," doesn't think April is worthy of such a long drive. Brother Timmy (John Gallagher), a teenager and amateur photographer, is non-committal. Dad, Jim (Oliver Platt), wants the family to be together, particularly because, as he notes to Timmy, this may be their last Thanksgiving together. Joy is dying. Adding to her anguish, she can't recall any fond memories of her oldest child, the wayward April.

Oh, but I've deceived you with all that. This is not a weepy melodrama. This is a comedy meal with dramatic garnish. Joy, named that way for a reason, jokes about her illness, and the film doesn't want to depress us with thoughts of mortality. It wants us to revel in family togetherness, the way its characters secretly yearn to.

April's oven stops working, leaving her to find a sympathetic neighbor who will lend her his, which leads to much frantic running from one apartment to another, transporting a partially baked turkey. Boyfriend Bobby, meanwhile, is out taking care of some business; in the film's only serious mistake, it wastes this character, introducing him just so it can immediately get him out of the way for the duration. His backstory of being a reformed drug dealer is plausible, but irrelevant.

Peter Hedges, who wrote "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" (the book and the movie) and "About a Boy" (just the movie), makes a strong directorial debut, filming a screenplay he wrote from scratch. He's an excellent storyteller, refusing to lay out all the cards at the beginning, revealing things to us methodically and ingeniously. So masterful is he in telling the story that we barely realize there IS one until it's all over and we look at the finished product.

The acting is nearly all realistic and natural, accenting the film's every-day humor and drama. (Shooting with hand-held digital video cameras adds to the authenticity.) Katie Holmes delivers what may be her best performance yet -- though I admit I never saw her in "Dawson's Creek" -- perfectly conveying the mix of rebellious daughter and vulnerable child. Her siblings are good, Oliver Platt is supportive, and Patricia Clarkson continues her streak of winning performances in independent films, acting here with marvelous grace and grit. I also liked the warm performances by Lillias White and Isiah Whitlock Jr. as Evette and Eugene, an African-American couple who take pity on April and teach her how to REALLY cook Thanksgiving dinner.

The only bad casting is Sean Hayes as a mildly helpful neighbor. In a film full of realism, his odd performance is badly out of place.

So what's it all about? The film reminds us that the first Thanksgiving was in the spirit of friends and strangers coming together to help one another, and Hedges does not belabor the point that April's Thanksgiving has come to be in much the same way.

There's also the modern interpretation of Thanksgiving, in which family togetherness is the important thing, regardless of how you feel about them the rest of the year. Your family is, after all, your family. Especially on Thanksgiving. What a pleasant and touching little movie this is.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=6954&reviewer=247
originally posted: 08/18/05 01:59:12
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This film is available for download or online viewing at CinemaNow.com For more in the CinemaNow.com series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Chicago Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/27/07 Tiffany Losco I found it boring and stupid. Wasted time watching it. 1 stars
9/10/06 claudine chamaa very sensitive and touching 4 stars
7/01/06 Graham Mason Boring and not at all funny 2 stars
1/28/06 sweetgrrl1972 I saw it on TV and was surprised to find I didn't want to change the channel once. 4 stars
12/26/04 mjoc This is a truly funny, heartwarming, and wonderful holiday film! 5 stars
11/21/04 Phil M. Aficionado Pulls you along at the right pace, alternatively humoring & crushing, Terrific cast/script 5 stars
6/30/04 Mikey Crunt Katie Holmes or Katie Crunt - You decide!! Good film, sloppy ending! 4 stars
6/18/04 Denise Duspiva th e family is a little odd but the idea is sweet 4 stars
4/12/04 joannetc i loved this movie (i think it was supposed to look brownish to suit the digital format) 5 stars
4/07/04 Andrew b pieces of april :( but also :) 5 stars
3/24/04 Margie very touching. i was pleasantly surprised by katie holmes. 4 stars
3/14/04 Elena It's amazing how much you care about the whole family when the story is so simple. So good. 5 stars
3/09/04 Joan Papuzynski I thought it was outstanding and very emotional 5 stars
3/09/04 Jose felix It was simple yet, remarkable!! 5 stars
2/27/04 carla pritchett Pieces of April is a very pleasant surprise. I enjoyed it tremendously. 5 stars
2/25/04 Cindy Ames Possibly the surprise sleeper of the year -- see it! 5 stars
2/25/04 Julia Cox A not laugh-out-loud but subtly hilarious comedy. 5 stars
1/14/04 Betty White Clarkson and Platt are wonderful in this rather average comedy. 3 stars
12/28/03 y2mckay decent performances from supporting cast, a tad overwrought, but not with sappy overkill 3 stars
11/16/03 Lilian Tomaran I think the movie was wonderful! Wonderful preformance by Patty. Hope she wins an oscar 5 stars
10/22/03 Lucy great movie! It was amazing and my friend was in it -she's the little girl in the bathroom 5 stars
10/15/03 Carmelita Florine brilliant film,although Katie Holmes certainly did not do justice to April.offwithherhead!! 3 stars
10/15/03 Meme R. Outstanding 5 stars
10/01/03 Bill Cumberson Fantastic Film 5 stars
9/29/03 Clare Evans The best movie I have seen in a long time 5 stars
9/15/03 Beth Hinton I thought it was okay, at best... 2 stars
9/14/03 Rachel Pradilla Katie Holmes was great and the little girl in the bathroom really affected me 5 stars
3/09/03 "Toots" Suite Terrific movie 5 stars
3/02/03 Elizabeth Douglass It was awsome! I loved it!! 5 stars
2/04/03 Danny Howes Katie Holmes is awesome 5 stars
2/04/03 Jean-Claude Laurent Katie Holmes is awesome 5 stars
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  17-Oct-2003 (PG-13)
  DVD: 24-Feb-2004



Directed by
  Peter Hedges

Written by
  Peter Hedges

  Katie Holmes
  Oliver Platt
  Patricia Clarkson
  Derek Luke
  Alison Pill
  Sean Hayes

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