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Pieces of April
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Movie Details

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Directed By
Peter Hedges

Written By:
Peter Hedges

Katie Holmes, Patricia Clarkson, Oliver Platt, Derek Luke, Alison Pill, Alice Drummond, John Gallagher Jr., Sean Hayes, Sisqo, Lillias White, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Susan Bruce, Adrian Martine

Pieces of April (2003)
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Movie Review by Zara
January 24th, 2007

No wonder I got cancer!

If there's a family out there who's not dysfunctional, I've yet to meet them. Perhaps it's because I grew up in California, the mecca of dysfunctional behavior, but families who do not get along or flat out hate one another is not something that I would bat an eyelash at. And given Katie Holmes' recent publicity, I wasn't sure that I would be able to sit through this movie without being bored or irritated to tears. But after factoring in that it was one of the few movies with an Oscar nominee (Clarkson) that I hadn't seen, I gave it a shot. Turned out I made the right decision.

PIECES OF APRIL takes place on Thanksgiving day, although the action in the movie is split between April and her quest to prepare the holiday meal, and the car ride shared by her other family members as they make their way to her home. The outline is basic: April was not the best of children. Her siblings were stellar offspring. Mom is a cantankerous b*tch who is now dying from breast cancer. Dad is the soft-spoken, genial man that all cancer victims are married to in the movies. Grandma is out of it. The new boyfriend is well-meaning. When April's oven busts, she has to go on a quest to find people to help her cook her turkey. She is not used to asking for help. Mom causes all kinds of mayhem on the drive over. The rest of the family suffers through it with forced smiles because of her illness.

Yet there is a quiet truth to this movie that breathes below what normally would have been just another contrived set-up. Clarkson could have played the entire performance bitter and dry, but instead infuses it with a bizarre sense of humor. Most of her acting is in the tragic gleam in her eyes, one that reads: "I give in." This movie reminds me that Katie Holmes once tried really hard to be thought of as a serious actress, and came damn close to succeeding. The movie ends with the typical reunion where all is forgiven and forgotten, but it doesn't get there with hand holding and sunny smiles. It resolves to let things be as they may, because in the end, we fuss and we fight, but we all give in.

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