18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Moving, funny, sad, and intensely human,
About thirty minutes into this film, I must confess that I didn't think I was going to like it, but I ended up liking it a great deal. The first problem I had was the look of the film, with an exceptionally grainy cast to the images, made worse by a series of extreme close ups, and bleached out colors. The film never ended up looking good, but the it bothered me less as it went on. The second thing that bothered me was that the set up seemed a bit too stereotypical: black sheep of the family April living in squalor in another town (New York City) makes a Thanksgiving dinner for her disapproving family (loving but sometimes overwhelmed father, younger and negativistic sister, go-with-the-flow younger brother, grandmother suffering from Alzheimer's, and hypercritical, cold, and unloving mother, who is undergoing--probably futility--chemotherapy for breast cancer). Of course, everything starts going wrong and gets worse (April and her boyfriend obviously have no culinary skills, oven is broken and she has extreme difficulty finding anyone who can help her, her mother in the car bringing her family to NYC is constantly berating April and creating a poisoned atmosphere, etc.), and I felt the whole thing was a bit too predictable (which it in part remained).
But at some point about halfway through the film, I really started enjoying the film. Sure, it still looked bad, but I started enjoying getting to know the characters, I began to find the humor more and more biting, and I started to want her family to be pleasantly surprised at April's almost heroic efforts to create perhaps the last good day they would all have as a family. I was also enjoying some of the quirky neighbors we meet, including a very helpful middle-aged African American couple living below her, and a bizarre upstairs neighbor with a nice, new stove (played by Sean Hayes of WILL AND GRACE). Things both at April's apartment, with her boyfriend (who unhappily runs into her drug dealer ex-boyfriend just before the dinner starts), and inside the car get worse and worse until everything apparently collapses. And then, perhaps a bit too neatly, everything is put back together again. But just like the characters in the film, we in the end want everything to be nice and pleasant, and it isn't at all hard acceding to that inclination.
I liked the cast a great deal. Oliver Platt (he and NOT Will Ferrell should be starring in A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES!) is as excellent as always, and Patricia Clarkson is outstanding as April's dying and acerbic mother. She is especially funny in the scene where she smokes dope (to counteract the effects of the chemo) and seems to rewind to her youth in the car. Katie Holmes is made to be as unlovely as it is possible to make her, but she still possesses enough wounded charm to make us root for her making her dinner a success. Indeed, her ongoing struggles both against fate and against her own culinary ineptness renders her as quite the heroine by the end of the film.
This film isn't for everyone. It is a bit bleak, and it isn't the prettiest film in the world to look at, and fans of DAWSON'S CREEK might want to see a prettier Katie Holmes, but if one can get past all this, one just might discover that this is a funny, inspiring, and moving film.