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Overall Rating

Awesome: 30.23%
Worth A Look40.7%
Average: 25.58%
Pretty Bad: 2.33%
Total Crap: 1.16%

9 reviews, 32 user ratings

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Pieces of April
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by Stephen Groenewegen

"Guess Whoís Coming to Dinner?"
4 stars

Never judge a book by its cover, runs the familiar proverb. Analogously, you canít always judge a film by the cinematography. Pieces of April looks like it was shot in a broom cupboard, but turns out to be a lot more fun than its limited colour palette suggests.

At first light on Thanksgiving morning, well-meaning boyfriend Bobby (Derek Luke) has to drag April (Katie Holmes) from her bed. For the first time ever, April has offered to cook the family holiday dinner at her place - an unkempt apartment on New Yorkís Lower East Side.

This is a big deal. For one thing, April cannot cook to save her life. The dinnerís ingredients are lined up in tins along the counter, and her fumbling efforts to peel a potato are enough to induce wincing. More importantly, she is the Burns family black sheep, symbolised by her pink hair, piercings, tattoos and copious junk jewellery. April is making a gesture of heroic proportions only because her estranged mother has terminal cancer. When her oven obstinately refuses to ignite to cook the turkey, it is the beginning of a day of comic and poignant mishaps.

We cut between Aprilís preparations for the feast and the rest of the Burns family driving to New York. Theyíve never been invited to her place before and donít even know her boyfriend is black. Dad (Oliver Platt), the kids (Alison Pill, John Gallagher Jr.) and senile old grandma (Alice Drummond) are anxious that the day be filled with happy memories for Joy (Patricia Clarkson), in case itís her last Thanksgiving. Joy is not having a bar of this warm and fuzzy sentiment, instead mercilessly doling out acerbic and droll witticisms in all directions. She orders the family to fill up on Krispy Kreme donuts as an excuse to avoid Aprilís cooking and smokes a joint with her son in a roadside washroom.

First-time director Peter Hedges is an accomplished screenwriter (About a Boy), novelist (Whatís Eating Gilbert Grape) and playwright. His own motherís death from cancer informs the film, but Pieces of April is never mawkish. Hedges tells his story breezily, in an economic 80 minutes. Thereís enough to the main characters for it not to feel like an extended sketch.

Clarksonís unceasing cattiness is endearing rather than nasty, because we can sense the pain that provokes it. Luke makes for a charismatic second-string hero and Platt underplays beautifully as Clarksonís straight guy. Holmes also won me over. Sheís playing a self-absorbed brat, but you can see that April is really trying to slough off her disaffected punk persona.

Unfortunately, the rest of the supporting cast are too thinly sketched, little more than stereotypes. They range from obnoxious to amusing. Sean Hayes (Will and Grace) is insufferable as a simpering, vain gay neighbour. But Lillias White is thoroughly disarming as Evette, a plain-speaking Earth mother who helps save Aprilís dinner from disaster.

The story and characters of Pieces of April are sufficiently charming to linger. But thereís a scungy brown patina to everything on screen thatís plain ugly, thanks to some screwy lighting. It must have been a deliberate decision on the part of Hedges and cinematographer Tami Reiker but the rationale escapes me. Shooting on digital video neednít produce such grim and dim results. I wanted to gatecrash Aprilís apartment with a mop and bucket and scrub the place clean.

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originally posted: 03/01/04 07:59:09
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This film is available for download or online viewing at For more in the series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Chicago Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/28/07 Tiffany Losco I found it boring and stupid. Wasted time watching it. 1 stars
9/11/06 claudine chamaa very sensitive and touching 4 stars
7/02/06 Graham Mason Boring and not at all funny 2 stars
1/29/06 sweetgrrl1972 I saw it on TV and was surprised to find I didn't want to change the channel once. 4 stars
12/27/04 mjoc This is a truly funny, heartwarming, and wonderful holiday film! 5 stars
11/21/04 Phil M. Aficionado Pulls you along at the right pace, alternatively humoring & crushing, Terrific cast/script 5 stars
7/01/04 Mikey Crunt Katie Holmes or Katie Crunt - You decide!! Good film, sloppy ending! 4 stars
6/19/04 Denise Duspiva th e family is a little odd but the idea is sweet 4 stars
4/13/04 joannetc i loved this movie (i think it was supposed to look brownish to suit the digital format) 5 stars
4/08/04 Andrew b pieces of april :( but also :) 5 stars
3/24/04 Margie very touching. i was pleasantly surprised by katie holmes. 4 stars
3/15/04 Elena It's amazing how much you care about the whole family when the story is so simple. So good. 5 stars
3/10/04 Joan Papuzynski I thought it was outstanding and very emotional 5 stars
3/10/04 Jose felix It was simple yet, remarkable!! 5 stars
2/27/04 carla pritchett Pieces of April is a very pleasant surprise. I enjoyed it tremendously. 5 stars
2/26/04 Cindy Ames Possibly the surprise sleeper of the year -- see it! 5 stars
2/26/04 Julia Cox A not laugh-out-loud but subtly hilarious comedy. 5 stars
1/15/04 Betty White Clarkson and Platt are wonderful in this rather average comedy. 3 stars
12/29/03 y2mckay decent performances from supporting cast, a tad overwrought, but not with sappy overkill 3 stars
11/17/03 Lilian Tomaran I think the movie was wonderful! Wonderful preformance by Patty. Hope she wins an oscar 5 stars
10/23/03 Lucy great movie! It was amazing and my friend was in it -she's the little girl in the bathroom 5 stars
10/16/03 Carmelita Florine brilliant film,although Katie Holmes certainly did not do justice to April.offwithherhead!! 3 stars
10/16/03 Meme R. Outstanding 5 stars
10/02/03 Bill Cumberson Fantastic Film 5 stars
9/30/03 Clare Evans The best movie I have seen in a long time 5 stars
9/16/03 Beth Hinton I thought it was okay, at best... 2 stars
9/15/03 Rachel Pradilla Katie Holmes was great and the little girl in the bathroom really affected me 5 stars
3/10/03 "Toots" Suite Terrific movie 5 stars
3/03/03 Elizabeth Douglass It was awsome! I loved it!! 5 stars
2/05/03 Danny Howes Katie Holmes is awesome 5 stars
2/05/03 Jean-Claude Laurent Katie Holmes is awesome 5 stars
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  17-Oct-2003 (PG-13)
  DVD: 24-Feb-2004



Directed by
  Peter Hedges

Written by
  Peter Hedges

  Katie Holmes
  Oliver Platt
  Patricia Clarkson
  Derek Luke
  Alison Pill
  Sean Hayes

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