Review by: Graeme Kay | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: None listed at time of going to press
PIECES of April is the directorial debut of Peter Hedges, who
wrote the screenplay for About
A Boy and adapted his own novel, What's Eating Gilbert Grape,
for the big-screen in the early '90s. It is a rather good.
The action, like so many films about the break-down of American
family life, revolves around Thanksgiving Day.
In this case, April (Katie Holmes), a rebellious, art-punk living
in a run-down apartment in a run-down neighbourhood in New York,
is attempting to make up for all her teenage indiscretions by
making the traditional turkey dinner for her mother (who is dying
from cancer), father, grandmother and two younger siblings.
She hopes that the meal will help her make peace with her folks.
Unfortunately, April is about as well-equipped to make a roast
dinner as the Pope is to run a night at The Ministry of Sound;
that is, she has no cooking equipment, barely room in her flat
to swing a rat, never mind a cat, and absolutely no flair at all
for the culinary arts.
Thus, much of the humour in this darkly comic tale comes from
the heroine's attempts to get together, against all the odds,
the most important meal in the American domestic calendar.
However, this is far from a one-trick pony, because as April
hurtles around her neighbourhood in increasing desperation, mom,
(Patricia Clarkson), dad, (Oliver Platt), grandma and the kids
are having a comic adventure, including a great what-happens-when-parents-smoke-dope
sequence, of their own, as they travel from the mid-west to the
While Platt is his usually reliable self, and Alice Drummond
puts in a great performance as the senile granny, this film, which
also features a predictable, but nonetheless appealing, cameo
from Sean Hayes (Jack, from Will & Grace), ultimately belongs
to Clarkson and Kelly Holmes (April).
The latter is clumsily appealing as the ditsy, dysfunctional
wild-child, and the former is superb as the cantankerous, vituperative
victim of fate, who, now that her own existence is ending, gets
perverse pleasure from making other people's lives miserable.
That the film ends more with a whimper than a bang doesn't really
detract from the enjoyment of the sum of its parts.
A little gem.