Pieces of April
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Katie Holmes is April, a young girl living in a (very) low rent area of New York's Lower East Side. Estranged from her family, she invites them over for what may be her ailing mother's last Thanksgiving. Unfortunately for April, her oven gives out and she has to find a kind soul in her building willing to let them stuff her huge turkey into their oven.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
First time director Peter Hedges, writer of WHAT'S EATING GILBERT GRAPE?, puts together a nice effort resulting in a charming little movie that has its silly moments, but that still brings home a few nice smiles and maybe even a tear or two. The story is fairly straightforward: April wants her dying mother to leave with at least one good memory of their lives together. The fun starts when you meet April's neighbors who actually aren't the ogres you'd expect. Among those neighbors is Sean Hayes, who gives his one-trick pony act a little twist and ends up being one of the funniest characters in the movie. Derek Luke also makes a respectable appearance as April's boyfriend and his buddy, played by thong-loving rapper Sisqo, delivers a few well placed chuckles.
The biggest props however go to Patricia Clarkson as the dying mother who's convinced her next meeting with her daughter will be as disastrous as all the ones previous. Driving from the Pennsylvania home down to NYC with her husband (Platt), her kids and her mom, she runs the gamut of emotions from giddiness to anger to despair and drives her worried family nuts along with her. The storyline of the family driving down almost takes over from the busted oven due to her performance, which offers the film's emotional highlights. You also get to count the chins on Platt during some of the slower passages and find out he's consistently adding one per movie. Overall, PIECES OF APRIL is a decent way to spend some time. It's sweet, funny, heartbreaking at times and a real quick watch at 80 minutes. It's a good rental suggestion.
You only get two features of note here, the first being a full length commentary by writer/director Peter Hedges in which he really conveys the sense of personal involvement he had in this story. It's so much nicer sometimes to listen to small budget directors who get a bit more into the story and its telling, rather than with details such as where they had to place their twelve cameras for a billion dollar shot. I was pretty happy with this track. Following that was a 15-minute long documentary entitled "All the Pieces Together", with actor interviews and a bit about the origin of the story and its shoot. The Theatrical Trailer is also slapped into the mix.
PIECES OF APRIL is a better-than-average movie that seems a bit repetitive at times, but that still works as a whole. A nice rental if you're in the mood for something cute and quick, light and well-acted. The only thing that may weigh towards a permanent acquisition (that's a purchase) is Clarkson's performance, which incidentally, earned her a nomination for Best Supporting Actress at this year's Academy Awards.