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Pieces Of April

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Pieces Of April

Starring: Katie Holmes, Patricia Clarkson
Director: Peter Hedges
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 81 Minutes
Release Date: October 2003
Genres: Comedy, Drama

*Also starring: Oliver Platt, Derek Luke, Alison Pill, Alice Drummond, John Gallagher Jr., Sisqo, Sean P. Hayes, Lillias White, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Susan Bruce

Review by Susan Granger
3 stars out of 4

This black comedy belongs to a new sub-species of films known as the Thanksgiving genre, like Jodie Foster's cynical "Home for the Holidays" and the syrupy "What's Cooking?"

Written and directed by Peter Hedges ("What's Eating Gilbert Grape?"), the unconventional story revolves around stubbornly independent April Burns (Katie Holmes) who has invited her dysfunctional suburban family to drive into Manhattan to join her for the traditional feast. April's never cooked a turkey before but her devoted boy-friend Bobby (Derek Luke) helps her get the bird and the "fixin's" ready in their shabby apartment before cycling off to find appropriate attire to meet April's family. Soon after his departure, April discovers to her horror that the stove's not working, leaving her to knock on various neighbors' doors to beg to use their ovens.

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, April's bitterly alienated mother, Joy (Patricia Clarkson), is already sitting in the station wagon, ready for the journey. She's terminally ill with cancer and callously uses deathbed humor to manipulate her husband and children. After several stops - to pick up a senile grandmother (Alice Drummond), smoke 'medicinal' pot and bury road-kill - Mom, Dad (Oliver Platt) and April's two younger siblings arrive at her tenement in a dilapidated Lower East Side neighborhood, only to discover that April's beloved Bobby is a black man.

Peter Hedges cleverly captures familial estrangement, just as Tami Reiker's hand-held digital photography has unvarnished realism. It's an amusingly indelible portrait a family reunion and reconciliation - and leaving this life with no regrets. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Pieces of April" is a wry, ironic, off-beat 7, seasoned with the spicy sentiment of Thanksgiving.

Copyright 2003 Susan Granger

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