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Pieces of April
dir. Peter Hedges (2003)
Remember when Katie Holmes was a winning young actress-to-watch? Ah, yes, the Halcyon, pre-Cruise days of The Ice Storm and Go and Wonder Boys...
Into this mix falls the charming Pieces of April, a story of family dysfunction and East Village squalor, with Holmes as the bad-girl black sheep prodigal daughter, living in sin with her dreamboat boyfriend (Derek Luke). In his directorial debut, Hedges (who literally wrote the book, and screenplay, on eccentric families with What's Eating Gilbert Grape?) tells two alternating stories: one of April trying to cook a turkey in her tenement of an apartment, meeting her neighbors (like Sean Hayes) along the way, and one of her family's journey to the Thanksgiving table, punctuated with pot-smoking (from April's mother, played by Patricia Clarkson in an Oscar-nominated performance), elderly grandmas, and petulant, "good" daughter whining from a young Alison Pill.
The set-up may be sitcom-lite, and the dated early days of digital filmmaking look doesn't help, but Hedges delivers a rather moving film that just may capture the spirit of Thanksgiving, exploring the way a makeshift community can happen, the way that families can fracture—be it a druggie daughter or a mother's losing battle with breast cancer—and the way that people get through these struggles, with something close to grace.
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