January 05, 2004

Pieces of April

piecesofapril.jpgHosting your family for Thanksgiving dinner has got to be one of life's most stressful moments. Add in a complete ignorance of cooking, a family that has written you off as an anti-social deviant, and an oven that doesn't work in a tiny New York apartment and you have the makings of a complete disaster. Katie Holmes's April somehow manages to summon the determination and ingenuity to fight her way back from an impossible beginning into something that while far from strictly traditional is an affirmation of the value of family and community in adversity. Patricia Clarkson is marvelous as April's mother who is dying of cancer (though she and April are the only ones who have accepted that fact (pretty much the only thing they have in common)). Oliver Platt has a fine understated performance as the father who still thinks that if he believes it hard enough, his family will not be falling apart.

The film is shot in a coarse indy style (and I bet they were wishing desperately that they'd been able to write it in a way that didn't involve having 5 people driving around in a car for much of the film) but since it's depicting a family with so many raw bleeding edges, the almost documentary shooting style fits perfectly. It's written and directed by Peter Hedges who wrote What's Eating Gilbert Grape and the screenplay of About a Boy.

I liked it a lot more than I expected to. The trailer makes it look like it's going to be a holiday disaster movie, and that kind of thing just makes me cringe and squirm. The actual film is far more subtle and human, managing to avoid nearly all of the cliches of the holiday film genre. The plot kept surprising me, and the surprises were always perfectly in character. Good stuff, and if you can watch the final scene of the movie with dry eyes, then you're more stoic than I am.

Posted by jeffy at January 5, 2004 10:34 PM
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