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Pieces of April (12A)

Review by: Graeme Kay | Rating: Two

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 Big Apple.

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.

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