Published Jan 01, 2006Time the time it takes to cook a turkey, the time spent with family, the amount of time we have left plays an important role in Pieces of April. In many ways it's typical holiday fare telling the story of a dysfunctional family coming together for Thanksgiving: the mother is harsh, the father appeasing, there's the good girl, the nerd and the black sheep.
Peter Hedges' film avoids the sentimentality common to the genre (even though they've stepped it up a notch with a dying mother). Shot on digital video, there is little time wasted on making each scene perfect, making Pieces of April a stylised home movie.
After a long period of estrangement, April invites her family over for holiday dinner at her new lower eastside apartment. Her mother, Joy (Patricia Clarkson), has breast cancer and it's understood that this will likely be the last Thanksgiving they'll spend together. Katie Holmes, as April, finally proves she has a career beyond Dawson's Creek. As she races through her building trying to find an oven that works, becoming increasingly frantic about her family's arrival, April's world opens up in a single day. Holmes acts these enormous changes with subtlety. That April "isn't so tough" comes as no surprise, that Holmes doesn't rely on sweetness or flirtation to play her is a revelation.
April is petulant and clearly has difficulty communicating with others but she doesn't seem the terrible creature her family recalls. Her family plays the "remember when" game trying to find a happy April memory but these are memories filtered through years and distance. Joy is funny, acerbic and bitter; her other children clearly adore and are mystified by her. She responds with sarcasm and bitter truths whenever they ask, again, whether she is feeling all right. The similarities between mother and daughter are evident even if no one on screen seems to notice. (UA/MGM)