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Twenty-one year old April hasn't seen her family in a long time. They're
still in the burbs, April's in Manhattan, and really, all that's
probably for the best: with her history of drug problems, bad
boyfriends, and stealing, April knows she's been a deep disappointment
to her whole family -- and especially her mom, Joy, who's never
hesitated to tell her so outright. But this Thanksgiving, April's
decided to invite Mom, Dad, sister Beth, brother Timmy and senile
Grandma to her rundown little apartment for a meal. It's a chance for
them to meet her new boyfriend, Bobby, a genuinely nice guy who, April's
dad proudly reports, reminds April of himself. But there's another
reason that April's hosting Thanksgiving this year: her mom is dying of
breast cancer. And though there's never been anything but harsh words,
distrust and misunderstanding between the two of them, April knows that
this will probably be her last chance to spend any time with her. Joy
feels this too, and though she's certain that the day will just be
another disaster to add to her many unhappy April experiences, there's a
little part of her that's holding out hope that this time, it'll be
different, and that they'll make one last nice memory together before
she dies. But the morning gets off to an inauspicious start when Bobby
disappears on a mysterious "thing" he has to do, leaving April
all alone to cook the meal. It's one disaster after another, since
April's really completely hopeless in the kitchen -- and things really
start to look bad when it turns out that April's oven is broken.
Desperate not to ruin Thanksgiving dinner, April grabs the bird and
starts making the rounds of her building, banging on doors to try and
find herself a free oven to use, looking for a little help from her
neighbors to save the day. Meanwhile, crammed into a station wagon, her
family's having a little adventure of their own as they make their way
slowly towards the city.
It's really easy to hate Katie Holmes -- she's young and ridiculously
pretty, she can only smile with one side of her mouth and boys seem to
love it, she once played a character that was in love with a character
played by James Van Der Beek. But in indie flick after indie flick,
she's forced me to grudgingly admit: I kind of like the girl. She's not
just another cute young starlet, but a real actress. And in Pieces of
April, she proves it again, as she pretty much holds her own against
the always marvelous Patricia Clarkson, who plays Joy. Clarkson is
terrific -- with her low, rich voice and her fine-boned, delicate
features, she does a great job of showing the contrast between what Joy
says (bristly, brusque, mean-spirited) and what Joy feels (vulnerable).
But my favorite scenes in Pieces of April are the ones that
center around April's preparations for the day, as she gets to know each
of her neighbors, an amazingly diverse group that ranges from a
middle-aged African-American couple preparing a
mouthwateringly-delicious turkey day feast, to a diehard vegan who says
its fine for April to borrow her oven -- until she realizes that April
wants to use it for a turkey -- to a persnickety single guy who holds
the bird hostage when he decides that April isn't acting sufficiently
grateful, to a Chinese family that finally takes her in and cooks her
bird for her, even though they can't understand a word she's saying and
don't even know what Thanksgiving is. It all makes for a darkly funny,
quirky, and ultimately kind of sweet look at what it means to need each
other -- as a family, as friends, as a community.—reviewed
by Yee-Fan Sun
lounge . nourish
. host .
. home .