Pieces of April
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Vicious humour and brutal honesty fill this gentle indie-style drama from writer Hedges (About a Boy), who also makes an auspicious directorial debut. April (Holmes) is the black sheep of her family, but she's going to try one last time to redeem herself by cooking a full Thanksgiving dinner. While her boyfriend (Luke) runs some rather mysterious errands, April struggles to put the meal together, borrowing ovens from neighbours (While, Whitlock and Hayes, in an extended cameo) when hers dies. She's obviously never cooked a normal meal, let alone something as complex as this, but her tenacity shows, as does her quick temper. Meanwhile her parents (Clarkson and Platt), goodie-goodie siblings (Pill and Gallagher) and senile granny (Drummond) are on an all-day road trip to get to April's seedy Manhattan flat.

This is the kind of film that could easily be tediously slushy, but Hedges keeps it laceratingly real, with bulls-eye performances from talented actors who are all used to much bigger budgets. Holmes is excellent as the bad girl trying desperately to overcome years of rebellion. But this isn't a simplistic tale of atonement; her family is just as much to blame as she is (maybe more so). Clarkson gives an especially devastating performance as April's acerbic, terminally ill mom. Yes, cancer is thrown into the mix as well, but Hedges never sentimentalises it. In specific and almost offhanded ways, each character must come to terms with the dysfunction, years of bitterness and the idea of impending death. An improvised funeral for a road-killed squirrel ("or maybe it's a raccoon") brings out both submerged emotion and gallows humour. When Mom finally snaps at her annoyingly perfect younger daughter, the comment is triple-edged: "You're making the same mistakes I made and I wish you'd make your own!" The kindness (and pettiness) of April's neighbours recreates a microcosm of multi-cultural New York, echoed in April's hilarious attempt to explain Thanksgiving to the Chinese family downstairs. Yes, the script is a bit neat and tidy--and perhaps too clever for its own good--but Hedges and his cast keep it so firmly grounded that when the emotion does hit at the end it's nearly overwhelming. A wonderful little film you'll want your relatives to see. For all the wrong reasons.

cert 12 themes, language, drugs 19.Sep.03

dir-scr Peter Hedges
with Katie Holmes, Patricia Clarkson, Oliver Platt, Derek Luke, Alison Pill, John Gallagher Jr, Alice Drummond, Lillias White, Isiah Whitlock Jr, Sean Hayes, Sisqo, Armando Riesco
release US 19.Sep.03; UK 20.Feb.03
United Artists
03/US 1h21

Panic in the kitchen: Holmes

holmes clarkson luke

23rd Shadows Awards

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send your review to Shadows... pieces of april Aalmee Philaguistin, Earth: 5 out of 5 stars "This film reminds me of that classic but oft forgotten film Twelve Angry Men - of course, obviously not for any plot connections but primarily because the respective themes of these two incredibly great films along with their specific, unmistakable and poignant character portrayals are evoked on screen in such a natural and almost effortless way. But what makes these films even more incredible, noteworthy and laudable is the cost and production efficiency by which they were made. Twelve Angry Men, which had been Academy Award nominated for Best Picture (but, incredulously, lost!), was shot almost entirely in one room. This movie was made on probably one of the lowest budgets Hollywood had ever seen at the time. Likewise, Pieces of April reportedly was made on a budget of between $200,000 to $250,000! What a deal!" (2.Nov.03)
2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall