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flick pick | Pieces of April 2003
Directed + written by: Peter Hedges
Starring: Katie Holmes, Patricia Clarkson, Derek Luke, Oliver Platt, Allison Pill, John Gallagher Jr., Alice Drummond
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under: drama
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something: darkly comic, feel-good, quintessentially quasi-adult
The critic says: ½/ 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: ½/5 

Plot synopsis 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.

Review 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

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