After losing her job, making out with her soon-to-be former boss and finding out that her daughter plans to spend Thanksgiving with her boyfriend, Claudia Larson faces spending the holiday with her family.
Robert Downey Jr.
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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
This film blew me out of the water. I was expecting an amiable, slight comedy, serving more than anything else as a launching pad for Katie Holmes's career into the Hollywood big time. But instead, this movie is a substantive and very moving story about a young girl who desperately wants to make a nice Thanksgiving dinner for a family from whom she feels somewhat estranged. It's extremely warm but extremely sad, and left me with a huge lump in my throat.
Katie Holmes is winning and sweet as April, and whether or not you like Holmes, I bet you'll be rooting for her by the film's end. For one day, her whole world becomes about planning one successful dinner party, and her lack of skill forces her to fall back on the kindness of neighbors she's never taken the time to meet. Meanwhile, her family (mother, father, brother and snotty sister) are on their way into the city to April's apartment, whining and complaining about having to visit a crummy part of town and missing no opportunity to criticize April, while trying to ignore the white elephant in the room, the fact that their mom has cancer and may not live to see another holiday. Of course, the conversations they have with each other communicate heaps of back story and clue us in to the family dynamic, and we learn that April's biggest critic, her mom, also happens to be the most like her daughter.
Patricia Clarkson has become one of my favorite actresses, and her Academy Award nomination for her performance as the mom in this film was richly deserved (I think she should have won). She beautifully plays this role with just the right amount of sarcasm and wit to prevent the movie from ever getting bogged down in sentimentality. When she finally is reunited with April at the very end, what could have been an icky, maudlin ending instead knocked the wind out of me with its simplicity and honest emotion.
"Pieces of April" just feels like one of those movies that is based on actual events in the life of its writer or director. It's full of tiny details of behavior that make the characters feel completely authentic, rather than creations. And there's a total understanding on everybody's part of the dynamics at play in a family that doesn't always get along and of that tendency of families facing some sort of crisis to latch on to one thing that's pretty mundane in order to avoid dealing with something else that is too big for the individual family members to deal with on its own.
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