Quirky and rebellious April Burns lives with her boyfriend in a low-rent New York City apartment miles away from her emotionally distant family. But when she discovers that her mother has a fatal form of breast cancer, she invites the clan to her place for Thanksgiving. While her father struggles to drive her family into the city, April -- an inexperienced cook -- runs into kitchen trouble and must ask a neighbor for help.
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everything you have heard about this movie is true.
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Don't Believe the Hype
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Through painfully honest and emotional moments, the movie becomes irresistibly relatable
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Pieces of April is a neat little indie film from the early 2000s about a dysfunctional family brought together by the occurrence of Thanksgiving and a spot of life-ending cancer. April Burns is the estranged daughter who sends out the invitations for what could be their final holiday dinner together, and to throw an extra spice into the mix, it's also the first meeting with her mysterious boyfriend (he's black, but a slight upgrade on her previous drug-dealing partner. Go figure.). But director Peter Hedges arranges the structure of the movie so that these stories are all separate strands, and when they converge in the end, all past grievances have been aired and resolved. It is the journey there that tells the story; the reunion is just a formality. A young Katie Holmes plays the titular role, and looks the part (although she would be a complete anachronism today): heavy gothic eyeliner, dyed pigtails, a choker and an abundance of irreverence. But beneath that surface brews anxiety, and Holmes frets frequently and appropriately. Just look at her fall to pieces when stumbling across a pair of salt and pepper shakers along with the childhood trauma that accompanies them. She enables the grief to be visible. Her mother by comparison gets the meatier, Oscar-worthy opportunities, able to undercut her nastiness with biting humour. It's Patricia Clarkson's sheer dismissiveness of the situation that makes her such a potent personality; it's her last Thanksgiving, and she's getting as many late shots in as she can. The natural rhythms of the overlapping dialogue in and out of the car assist this aura of toxicity, riffing off each other, then cutting in during the middle of a sentence, bouncing punchlines off egos. Their timing is impeccable, like a comedy troupe in perfect sync. See how Alison Pill splutters a protest when her big-headed brother tries to snap a candid photo of her picking at her teeth, and then as Clarkson cuts in with a sarcasm comment. You can't buy that type of authenticity. Stylistically, Hedges makes the best of his shoestring budget, replacing conventional lighting and camera setups with a handheld grittiness, as if the viewer was a distant cousin awkwardly observing this family reunion like a fly on the wall. It's no Cassavetes, but it works well in stripping away the glamour of their fragmented lives, peering up and around the dinghy corners of April's apartment block. Livolsi cuts with scrappy relish, in one particular occasion overlaying April and Bobby's sweet pillow talk (about the lavish meal they are preparing) with the bickering and chaos of the rest of the Burns family making their way into the city. It's all grainy and the outdoor shots are overexposed, but those have never got in the way of a good story. April's quest to cook her damn turkey doubles as an expansion of her mindset and tolerance, sharing stories and cooking tips with black neighbours and overflowing with gratitude at the Chinese family who lend her the use of their oven, although they don't speak a lick of English. This is all pretty conventional stuff, and although it may be eye-opening for April, it's not exactly groundbreaking or transgressive. Even when Bobby is fretting over making a good impression on his white girlfriend's family, the subtext is mostly text. When he bumps into April's drug-dealing ex, instead of highlighting the irony of how race still is the overpowering stigma, it just becomes a bad comedy sketch. It all ends in a wordless montage set to gentle music and touching snippets of the reconciliation dinner, which is perhaps more than the Burns deserve. See Jonathan Demme's Rachel Getting Married for a similar story that doesn't pull its punches.
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When this movie began I wondered how long I'd be able to put up with the unsettling effect of the cheaper style hand-held camera work but, something about the story and performances kept me fascinated. Here's a movie its creator obviously had a personal passion to bring to life. The writer, Peter Hedges ('What's Eating Gilbert Grape') also turns in a tour-de-force 'debut' directing effort with this quite remarkable work. Anyone who enjoys movies that feature a jumbled mix of characters all reacting to situations drawn directly from life experiences - could find this hard to top. And when you realize the handpicked cast worked so hard, for so little remuneration, it shows us they held a high regard for the story and its new director.Mum, as played by Patricia Clarkson certainly deserved her Oscar nomination but the role of her daughter April, is amazingly brought to life with a believable performance from Katie Holmes - she's equally deserving of nomination (that's if the awards mean more to you than they do to me). Oliver Platt (Frost/Nixon '08) who in real life, has links to the family of Princes Diana via her maternal Grandfather Maurice Roche - plays April's Dad with disarming brilliance - alternating between pathos and concern. Alison Pill and John Gallagher are both superb as April's brother and sister. Then come a deliciously fascinating array of N.Y. tenement block neighbours who complete the various characters April is forced to encounter, as she desperately begins preparations for her fated Thanksgiving family-reunion dinner. The only character who fails to fully impress is a young chap named Wayne, who turns up among her neighbours. He is just one of the characters who complicate the task of getting April's 'special' roast off-the-ground.It may not sound like much but the way a series of escalating events lead to many diverting twists and turns, make it special in so many ways. Equally interesting is Derek Luke who impressed as 'Antwone Fisher' just the year before, here he plays April's boyfriend Bobby. Finally, can't forget veteran Alice Drummond ('Awakenings '90) as Grandma. With so many unforgettable dysfunctional characters, involved in equally remarkable situations, you can't help be surprised at the outcome. Amidst the laughter and tears there are also important observations that show how society has dropped its guard and lost its way. A melodic music & songs score adds interest along the way but some tracks might have been better as strait instrumentals. Distributor United Artists took a chance on a commercial release and even made some money on the way. Highly recommended viewing for those who care or have ever been involved in the delicate act of preparing a special family dinner having the potential to end up being either volatile or a peace offering. Footnote: It's said the writer/director took little more than $20 for his work! Now that's a true belief in the cause. Take a look at this one.
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Alas yet another movie I found myself watching because of an ex and how I "Really must see it". The fact Oliver Platt was co-starring lifted my lethargy somewhat as I am a fan of his work, but sadly not even Mr Platt could save this movie.Now off the bat I want to say that I'm aware Pieces Of April has a level of cult status and I respect that but sadly in this case I honestly cannot see why.The movie wasn't offensive and brought nothing to the table that upset me, it just didn't bring anything to the table that I could find myself caring about let alone something that resembles something original.I'm not saying the movie is bad, its just that me and it just didn't click. The acting was fine, the camera work was solid...........I just didn't get it. Maybe I'm not the target audience, maybe I just wish that Holmes would go away.....far....far....away. Or maybe I just couldn't empathize with the characters.Either way this went over my head and I would recommend this purely as a sleeping aid.2/10 (Very Bad)
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" For Days I have been trying to think of nice April memories and I can only come up with one. She was just gazing out the window and she said "oh mother don't you just love every day?"" : Joy Burns Movie opens in one seedy Manhattan apartment with April (Katie Holmes)and her African-American boyfriend Bobby (Derek Luke) chaotically preparing for a big thanksgiving dinner. Meanwhile, April's highly dysfunctional family is preparing to leave their upstate New York suburban home to share this dinner with April in New York, anticipating disaster from the petulant April who is also eldest daughter and "black sheep" of the family.Peter Hedges has done something noteworthy in Pieces of April. Movie is shot in digital video format with an overall off-colour outlook. Patricia Clarkson delivers one of her best performance as April's ailing mother "Joy Burns" who is in her terminal stage of Breast Cancer. Her character is hilarious and maddening at the same time. Katie Holmes as April plays the role of a wayward eldest daughter of this dysfunctional family. She has not seen her family for some time now and as it may be the last thanksgiving of her mother, she invites her whole family to her apartment in New York. While preparing thanksgiving dinner and dealing with her neighbours, amid all the chaos she realizes that this may be her last chance to re-conciliate with her family. Movie flips-flops between scenes of neighbour-hopping escapades of April while facing all kinds of troubles in preparing thanksgiving dinner, and her family recollecting April & her shortcomings on their way to Manhattan.Pieces of April is funny, moving, sad & intensely human, may be the best thanksgiving movie I have ever seen. Movie works as an ensemble piece which may have collapsed without its center piece Joy Burns (Patricia Clarkson). Katie Holmes was riveting as April in her punk look. Movie is only 80mins long and in the end leaves you wanting for more of this eccentric family. Unlike the stereotypical depiction of Thanksgiving, Pieces of April explores basic human frailties, but remains true to the thanksgiving theme all the time. Elements of comedy and tragedy are beautifully interwoven in the movie. Hedges pans out a very moving & heartwarming climax by making all the pieces of April come together and bequeaths you with a feeling of bittersweet lightness. If you are a fan of offbeat 'slice of a life' cinema then this one is not to be missed.My Rating: 8/10.http://flickyfriday.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/pieces-of-april-2003/