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Pieces of April
Katie Holmes, Derek Luke, Oliver Platt, Alison Pill, John Gallagher, Jr., Patricia Clarkson, Alice Drummond
In Pieces of April, a pierced Katie Holmes donning red-streaked raven
hair is our proverbial black sheep, April Burns, anxious about having her family
over for Thanksgiving dinner at her tiny New York City apartment. A stubborn
April plans on cooking an entire meal herself despite her obvious lack of cooking
skills. In a rage, she attempts to mash uncooked potatoes. There is an eerie
silence of apprehension when April begins to prepare the meal only to discover
that her oven is broken.
While April is at home trying to prepare her Thanksgiving feast, her family
is on the road to reach Aprilís home in time for dinner. Oliver Platt
is Aprilís father, Jim, a stunningly subdued optimist who seems to be
forcing his enthusiasm for the familyís benefit. Alison Pill is literally
a pill as Beth, Aprilís overachieving little sister. Tim (John Gallagher,
Jr.), Aprilís younger brother, is a budding photographer who tries to
help his father lighten the mood. A pessimistic Patricia Clarkson is ironically
Joy, angry, mysterious mother to April.
Though, Pieces of April shares similar storytelling techniques with
Grams, where the jarring scene transition of 21
Grams offer confusion, Pieces of April offers cunning insight.
Each scene is anything but haphazard as family secrets are uncovered for increasingly
curious spectators. It is a low budget affair with flair that proves that first-rate
exceptional films donít need flashy special effects to prove their point.
As the camera flies back and forth between Aprilís struggles and the
familyís journey to New York City, the dialogue slowly but surely helps
us piece together the story behind the tension that has fractured this family.
We are onlookers forced to grasp at puzzle pieces to gain access to family secrets
before the imminent Thanksgiving meal. Each piece is as intricate, at times
painful, funny, subtle and delicious, as any number of neuroses found at any
family activity during the holidays.
As everything pieces together, April is forced to wander her building begging
for oven use as she tries desperately to get her turkey cooked in time for dinner.
Though her travails through her apartment complex offer most of the hilarity
in the film, we quickly become privy to the knowledge that Aprilís anxiety
to get the job done is fueled by her familyís belief that she is the family
Meanwhile, Bobby (Derek Luke), Aprilís live-in boyfriend, is in search
of a good suit to wear for his first meeting with Aprilís family. Like
Aprilís experience with the oven, there are pitfalls at every turn set
up to make him fail. Bobby, however, is an eternal optimist like Aprilís
father and he faces all adversity with a smile. He wants to do his best to make
sure dinner is perfect because he knows how much it means to April.
Pieces of April is surprisingly hilarious and poignant. A spiritual
experience at Krispy Kreme juxtaposes a proper burial for unsuspecting road
kill. The most interesting set of neighbors this side of the Lower East Side
which includes Sean Hayes as creepy 5th floor Wayne, alternate between lending
April a hand and holding her turkey hostage with minutes on the clock.
Pieces of April is a refreshing independent film that successfully
showcases a family drama while inviting us to share in the altruistic aspects
and anxiety that help construct Thanksgiving togetherness. Family drama devolves
painfully but sensationally before our eyes, instigating our pity and awe as
a familyís final Thanksgiving together comes to fore against all odds.
Its everyman sort of family dysfunction is honest and moving as we witness a
familyís journey back to each other.
The DVD gives the viewer a choice between full-screen or widescreen anamorphic
formats. Yay! Besides the standard commentary by writer-director Peter Hedges,
the DVD includes one in-depth featurette, ďAll the Pieces Together,Ē
where the director and actors come together to reflect on the story and their
roles. In addition to the hysterical trailers for Pieces of April,
trailers for other MGM independent films abound.