Pieces Of April (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner21/10/2003

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 80 mins

Enjoyable indie ‘Thanksgiving’ drama, a sort of ‘Guess Who’s Hopefully Coming For Dinner’ – superb performances and a decent script ensure this stays well above average.

‘Thanksgiving Movies’ are practically a sub-genre in the States and are usually cliché-laden affairs involving dysfunctional families getting together over a hearty Thanksgiving meal, arguing and then making up again (Jodie Foster’s Home For The Holidays is a good example).

Since Thanksgiving doesn’t exactly carry the same emotional resonance for us British types, a Thanksgiving Movie has to be pretty special if it’s going to find an audience here. Time to give thanks, then, for writer-director Peter Hedges’ Pieces of April, a low budget, independent Thanksgiving Movie with a decent script and likeable performances from its cast.

Problem Child Cooks Dinner

Shot entirely on digital video, the film stars Katie Holmes as April, the estranged ‘problem child’ of a suburban family – her relationship with her mother (Indie Queen Patricia Clarkson, excellent) has always been particularly difficult. Encouraged by her devoted live-in boyfriend Bobby (Derek Luke from Antwone Fisher), April decides to invite her family to their tiny New York apartment for Thanksgiving dinner.

Her mother, put-upon father (Oliver Platt) younger brother (John Gallagher Jnr), jealous sister (Alison Pill) and dotty grandmother (Alice Drummond) duly set off from Pennsylvania, but April quickly runs into problems involving a recalcitrant stove and a singular lack of culinary expertise…

Holmes is extremely good in the lead role – her performance subtly suggests that April has her moody, irrational side and is probably as much to blame for her estrangement as her difficult mother. Luke is well-cast, too – we gradually infer that their loving relationship has played a large part in mellowing April.

Surprising Lack Of Vomit Inducing Ending

Platt is excellent as always and you really feel for his character, desperate to see his daughter but also wary of unduly upsetting his increasingly unwell wife - Clarkson’s character has terminal cancer, meaning that this could be her Last Thanksgiving Ever, yet the film never milks this for easy sentiment, instead portraying her as a bitter, angry character constantly expecting April to let her down again.

There are several great scenes, particularly April’s attempts to get some ‘turkey time’ in her neighbour’s ovens – her hilarious attempt to explain Thanksgiving to the kindly Chinese family downstairs is a definite comic highlight, as is the constantly updated note she leaves for Bobby.

The film also cleverly keeps the two strands of the story apart till the very end, where Hedges pulls off a surprisingly affecting emotional resolution that avoids the usual vomit-worthy sentimental clichés in favour of something much simpler.

In short, Pieces of April is an enjoyable, moving indie drama with excellent performances from Holmes, Clarkson and Platt. Well worth seeing.

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Pieces Of April (15)
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Content updated: 22/10/2017 14:32

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