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Awesome: 30.23%
Worth A Look40.7%
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9 reviews, 32 user ratings

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Pieces of April
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by John Rice

"A quirky little gem.["
4 stars

Family dysfunction and the holidays has been done many time, but with "Pieces of April" writer/director Peter Hedges has succeeding with an unconventional look at manding family bridges.

April Burns (Katie Holmes) is the black sheep of the family. At a fairly young age she left home, probably for the sake of everyone else in her family as much as her own. Since then, she has survived without exactly thriving, living in New York City with a series of boyfriends. Her mother, Joy (Patricia Clarkson) is now terminally ill and April hopes to make Thanksgiving dinner for the whole family and possibly mend a few fences.

April is obviously a very different person from the one who caused so much trouble in her younger days. It also is apparent she received as much bad treatment, if not more, than she gave, as evidenced by the memory of her mother saying a cheap set of salt and pepper shakers "are worth more than you are." Most of Pieces of April involves April and her boyfriend Bobby (Derek Luke) preparing dinner and decorating the building for her family's arrival, as well the family's trepidation toward the visit.

While the story sometimes wanders a bit, what keeps it together and makes the whole experience worthwhile are the wonderful performances. Katie Holmes, in particular, has many moments of subtle effectiveness. Through much of the movie, she displays her obvious energy and addictive charm, but there are also moments where she demonstrates a surprising knack for understated dramatic skill. One instance comes late in the film when the pain she feels is silently evident as she, ironically, tends to some wounds on Bobby's face, finishing with a quiet "Shhh." This is not a scene which will be shown during any television interview to demonstrate her acting skill, but it is this kind of moment which, for me, makes movies most enjoyable. It is brief, but great.

Another quiet moment of realization stands out a short time later, as Joy looks at a young girl after her mother has stormed out on her in frustration. It is a long moment of silence as Joy simply watches the hopeless look on the girl's face, until she finally runs away in embarrassment. No doubt Joy is seeing herself and a young April in that moment.

In the end, it is probably these types of cathartic moments which are the greatest strength in Pieces of April. Amidst all the chaos, there are many things which virtually anyone can relate to. Almost everyone has at one time or another felt like an outcast from the people who are supposed to support and love them. April represents a summation of those feelings and her desperate, seemingly hopeless desire to fit back in is almost universally understood.

Clocking in at a brief 81 minutes, including closing credits, Pieces of April is something even the most marginal enthusiast should make a point of seeing. With a PG-13 rating it is relatively clean and suitable viewing for most family members.

Pieces of April is a mix of autobiography by writer/director Peter Hedges and a story he heard about a group of people who decided to cook a Thanksgiving dinner, but found the stove in the apartment they rented for the occasion didn't work. It was shot on High Definition Digital Video with a reported budget of $200,000. The mere fact that any feature film was done for so little is accomplishment in itself, but for it to be this well done and involve actors such as Holmes, Clarkson, Sean Hayes and Oliver Platt is almost impossible to believe. All these highly recognized actors must have forgone pay completely or agreed to residuals only for the film to come in at such a budget. At a time when digital video has often been poorly used in feature films, Pieces of April shows one of its greatest values. There is absolutely no way this film could have been produced for so little money if it were shot on film stock. (This review originally appeared on Slacker-Reviews.com)

Some films take more than one viewing to finally soak in. On my first viewing, "Pieces of April" didn't quite resonate, but on the second time around its charm was able to shine through.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=6954&reviewer=373
originally posted: 08/06/04 16:25:01
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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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