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Pieces of April

2 Ratings: 3.5
A movie directed by Peter Hedges

Katie Holmes is outstanding as the title character in Peter Hedges's PIECES OF APRIL. Holmes stars as April Burns, the black sheep of her family who has left suburbia for a Lower East Side tenement. To reconnect with her mother, Joy (Patricia Clarkson), … see full wiki

Tags: Movies, Dramas
Director: Peter Hedges
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Release Date: 2003
MPAA Rating: PG-13
1 review about Pieces of April

Pieces of April - 2003

  • Jul 3, 2011
Rating:
+3
Pros: Holmes, Clarkson, writing, solid story line

Cons: none for me

The Bottom Line:
"I've got pieces of April,
I keep them in a memory bouquet"
~D. Loggins


Watching Pieces of April was like sitting down at my own family Thanksgiving dinner except our turkey is always dry and the potatoes always cold.    This film was written and directed by Peter Hedges; carries a PG-13 rating for sensuality, drug use, nudity, and language.  It was nominated for 31 awards, winning a total of 14 to date.   While I am not a fan of slap-stick comedy there is something about a little black comedy that just works fine.

The story:
April, the eldest in her family, is hosting the Thanksgiving dinner this year.   Her parents, siblings, and grandmother are making the drive from Pennsylvania to New York for the occasion, where they will also meet April's new boyfriend, Bobby.    Not a family favorite, April has always walked to her own tune which seems to be a sore point with her mother, Joy.

Joy is the quintessential matriarch of the family; tough, often mean-spirited, quirkily funny, and she is also dying from cancer.   We peel back so many layers to this woman on this road trip we doubt we will ever find her true core.   I'm not sure we even want to find it, her layers are so wonderful. 

While April awaits their arrival she frantically tries to prepare the perfect meal, perhaps to impress or even find some peace with her family.   However peace seems a long way off when she discovers her broken down oven has finally bit the dust and she traipses all over the beaten down apartment building attempting to find someone who will lend her an oven for a few hours.

Bobby, in the meantime, has gone off trying to find a suit to look presentable for the impending meeting.  He isn't having much more success than April is in locating a willing oven owner.   Back in the car we are beseiged with April stories with trite responses from Joy.  Overall it doesn't look to be a pleasant reunion for all, or anyone.

The actors:
Katie Holmes, barely recognizable, is April.   She is edgy, quirky, but also shows a dignity that speaks volumes.    She is that daughter that is fingernails on chalkboards to some parents, defying their every demand while secretly yearning for acceptance.  She is so desperately likable in this film I didn't even realize it was her. 

Her offset was Joy, played with untuned brilliance by Patricia Clarkson.   She is exactly like my mother, only nicer.   I felt every ounce of April's angst while she waited for her family to arrive, dreading the confrontation she is sure to have with Joy.   Clarkson gave such a base human character to this part you hardly realized it was acting.  Even when she is at her lowest point [there is nothing pretty about vomiting in a restroom on the roadside] she punches it with brittle remarks forcing you to forgo any empathy you felt for her. 

She was joined by Oliver Platt as her long-suffering husband, Jim, who just accepts her rantings with a placating nod of his head.    After all his years with her he realizes an argument is both frustrating and futile.  Alison Pill and John Gallagher play April's siblings along with Derek Luke as boyfriend Bobby. 

DVD extras:
commentary; widescreen & full frame version; feature: All The Pieces Together; trailer' previews.

Overall impression:
Funny and sad at the same time, I found this film very enjoyable.   Acting by Holmes and Clarkson gave this film such an edge you wanted to wrap a warm blanket around yourself during viewing.    Without a doubt it is swamped in time-worn cliches but for some reason they just work here.   I attribute this to good writing, solid character development, and the superb joining of these two fine actresses in this film.

This film carries so much heart you often forget the underlying pathos surrounding this family.  

thanks,
Susi

Recommended:
Yes

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July 28, 2011
I still have yet to see this one....
July 30, 2011
I wouldn't push but if you run across it, it is OK
 
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