Customer Review

22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not exactly Rockwell's vision, March 20, 2004
This review is from: Pieces of April (DVD)
You may have seen the famous Norman Rockwell painting, "Freedom from Want", which depicts the idealized American family gathered around the quintessential Thanksgiving table as the turkey is presented for carving. PIECES OF APRIL it's not.
April Burns (Katie Holmes) lives in a New York City apartment with her boyfriend Bobby (Derek Luke), and the film opens as the two begin to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for the rest of April's family, which is driving in from out of town for the ordeal.
Joy Burns (Patricia Clarkson) is dying of the metastatic cancer that has already cost her both her breasts, a surgical transformation suitably documented in the family photo album. She expects this Thanksgiving to be a disaster since daughter April was a more into drugs than Home Ec. Indeed, to say she and April are estranged is an understatement. But husband Jim (Oliver Platt) persuades her, so off they go in the station wagon with their other children, daughter Beth (Alison Pill) and son Timmy (John Gallagher), and Joy's senile mother Dottie (Alice Drummond) for what may well be Joy's last Thanksgiving.
In the meantime, as Bobby goes out on a mysterious errand, April is faced with a non-functional oven, which forces her to desperately beg the other tenants in the building for the necessary range time to cook the traditional bird. Time is running short, and the rest of the clan is getting closer despite frequent stops for Joy to vomit from the nausea induced by her chemotherapy. And it also appears that the family doesn't know that April lives in a decrepit tenement in a graffiti-decorated slum, nor that Bobby is Black. The Burns festive occasion promises to make your dysfunctional Turkey Day look like a Martha Stewart showcase event in comparison.
Clarkson was deservedly nominated for, but didn't receive, an Oscar for this performance in a supporting role. She's more the "star" of PIECES OF APRIL than the ostensible lead, Holmes. The Bobby, Beth and Timmy characters are almost an unnecessary distraction. More interesting are April's neighbors which give her help, or not, especially the very strange Wayne (Sean Hayes) and the middle-age Afro-American couple, Evette (Lillias White) and Eugene (Isiah Whitlock). There's an especially good scene involving Evette's initial reaction to April when the latter first appears seeking help for her culinary crisis.
The movie's abrupt conclusion after eighty-one minutes leaves much to be desired. One wonders if the scriptwriter ran out of ideas or the producers out of money. But there's still enough there to make the film more than worth the cost of the rental. And, next Thanksgiving with the relatives, perhaps you won't take those mashed potatoes for granted.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 22, 2013 6:44:10 PM PDT
Scott says:
Wonderful movie - great review. I agree almost completely, except I found the end to be quite effective. I do not pretend to speak for the filmmakers, but for me the ending captures perfectly the illusive nature of memories. Some are almost complete, like small movies and others are just snapshots of a moment in time; not that the directer had that in mind necessarily, but that's how I see it, as a memory of the last family Thanksgiving.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 22, 2013 9:15:53 PM PDT
Mr. Joe says:
Scott,

Perhaps you're right about the ending. Unfortunately, as I saw the film nine years ago, memory fails on the finer points.

Thanks for your input!

Joe
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Mr. Joe
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Location: Glendale, CA USA

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