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Pieces of April (2003)

PG-13  |   |  Comedy, Drama  |  28 November 2003 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 17,597 users   Metascore: 70/100
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A wayward daughter invites her dying mother and the rest of her estranged family to her apartment for Thanksgiving dinner.



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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 17 wins & 18 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Timmy Burns
Grandma Dottie
Half Asleep Man
Man in Mohair Sweater
Susan Bruce ...
Jamari Richardson ...
Boy on Bicycle
Leila Danette ...
Woman in Stairwell
Stephen Chen ...
Lee Loung Tan


In a very poor zone of New York, April Burns and her boyfriend, the Afro-American Bobby, are preparing to receive April's family for thanksgiving dinner. While Bobby tries to borrow a suit for himself, April realizes that her stove is broken. She tries desperately to find a neighbor that can let her cook the turkey, since she does not want to fail (again) with her family. Meanwhile, in a suburb of Pennsylvania, her dysfunctional family is preparing to travel to New York. While driving, the relationship between the Burns and their black-sheep April is disclosed through the conversations between her father Jim, her resented mother Joy, her brother, her sister and her grandmother. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


She's the one in every family.


Comedy | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for language, sensuality, drug content and images of nudity | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:




Release Date:

28 November 2003 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Pieces of April - Ein Tag mit April Burns  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$300,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$48,422 (USA) (17 October 2003)


$2,360,184 (USA) (26 December 2003)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Is the first original screenplay by writer/director Peter Hedges. All his others have been adaptations. See more »


Joy's wig is wet after she rinses it in the sink. Presumably a short time later, the ride continues, but Joy's wig is completely dry. See more »


Jim Burns: I can think of one memory. She was wearing a pink nightgown...
Timmy Burns: That was ME!
See more »

Crazy Credits

In memory of my mother, Carole Hedges, who loved every day. See more »


Referenced in Dan in Real Life (2007) See more »


The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side
Written by Stephin Merritt
Performed by The Magnetic Fields
Courtesy of Merge Records
See more »

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User Reviews

funny and moving little film
11 April 2004 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Written and directed by Peter Hedges, `Pieces of April' is a droll little comedy with deadly serious overtones. April is the black sheep of the Burns family, the one child of whom her mother has no fond memories. Although from what we see of her, April seems to be a pretty decent young lady, it is obvious that her parents and her brother and sister harbor deep resentments towards her (her earlier involvement with drugs and drug dealers seems to be the primary cause of bitterness). Well, it's Thanksgiving Day and April is attempting to mend some bridges by hosting this year's dinner at her cramped New York City apartment. April is terrified of failure and her family members have little faith that she will be able to pull the event off. Complicating matters even further is the fact that Joy, April's mother, is suffering from terminal cancer.

As a narrative, the film basically runs along two parallel tracks. One involves April and her frantic attempts to get her dinner cooked despite the fact that her gas oven has suddenly stopped working. This forces her to go up and down the hallway of her apartment building throwing herself on the mercy of her colorfully eccentric neighbors, some of whom offer their assistance and some of whom don't. Hedges mines his richest vein of humor in this section, capturing the offbeat nature of both the people and the situation. The other plotline - involving the family's reluctant trek from suburbia into the city - naturally carries with it far more serious overtones, dealing as it does with death, recrimination, family dysfunction and despair. But even here, Hedges is able to inject some moments of wicked black humor into the proceedings.

Oddly enough, of all the characters, April is one of the least fully developed in the film. She remains basically a passive observer and most of what we learn about her comes from comments made by various family members. We have to take it on faith that she is such a loser and a troublemaker because we see very little evidence of it with out own eyes. Certainly the most intriguing character in the story is the ironically named Joy, ironic because, even though her terminally ill status should elicit sympathy from the audience, her often-nasty disposition makes it difficult for us to like her. This is Hedges' boldest touch, this refusal to sugarcoat or sentimentalize a person just because life and the fates have been unkind to her. Also quite fascinating is the character of Beth, April's younger sister. We see how Beth thrives on the positive attention she receives simply by being the `good' daughter of the family, and how she jealously and ever-so-sweetly guards her own position while subtly sabotaging any effort on the part of April to make amends and to find her way back into the fold. It's a fascinating portrayal of sibling rivalry carried to destructive proportions.

`Pieces of April' features wonderful performances by Katie Holmes as April, Oliver Platt as her father, Alison Pill as her sister, and Derek Luke (from `Antwone Fisher') as her boyfriend. Particular praise should go to Lillias White, as the neighbor who supplies April with a stove at her greatest hour of need, and to Patricia Clarkson as Joy, who achieves the Herculean task of making her pain-wracked character both abrasive and sympathetic at the same time. It's an award-worthy performance.

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