|Pieces Of April DVD|
Pieces of April is the story of a family but it's also so much more than that. From the way it was filmed to the dialogue to the realness of the characters themselves, it's more than a movie or a film or a tale. It's an intimate look at a family, their relationships and their weaknesses. It's pieces of my family and most likely yours, it's people you know and love and maybe sometimes wish you didn't have to. But that's any family and with Pieces of April, Peter Hedges takes a very close and very personal look at the Burns' and all of it's members, being careful not to ignore anyone.
The story itself centers around April, the oldest daughter who has been estranged but is making an attempt to reconcile with her family, particularly her mother. The reason is it's Thanksgiving and her mother is dying. On this particular Thanksgiving morning, as April rushes to prepare dinner, the remaining family members file into the station wagon and make their way from their suburban home to April's dilapidated apartment in New York City. Along with her parents are a slightly senile grandmother and two younger siblings, Timmy and Beth. While Beth is constantly trying to prove herself as the "better" daughter, Timmy is busy capturing it all with his camera. More specifically, he is documenting his mother's illness.
Katie Holmes is the unappreciated and underestimated April. She is also the irresponsible screw up April. As wonderfully subtle as she plays the role, it's several other characters that demand the attention. A favorite of mine in the movie was Antwone Fisher's Derek Luke. As April's live-in boyfriend, Bobby, he is possibly the only truly likeable character. He represents an aspect of effort and sweetness missing in April and her family.
Patricia Clarkson is Joy, the dying mother. Cold and bitterly sarcastic, you feel her fear through her wit and her anger through her quiet moments. You sense everything that remains unsaid through her disappointment in April. Aside from Luke's Bobby, Oliver Platt's role as April's father is perhaps the most redeeming character of all. As the one who's holding it all together but ready to fall apart at any second, he provides real warmth to the film.
While the family travels from one gas station bathroom to another, April's stove has broken, making her task of preparing the turkey nearly impossible. While she makes her way through her apartment building, meeting neighbors and eventually borrowing three different stoves, we slowly learn bits and pieces of her story. Her mother and her have never gotten along. She's the "first pancake", the one that got thrown out first. We learn even more from her family about their dislike for their daughter and sister.
Hedges shows his ability to portray the farthest reaches of reality, always keeping it believable and smart while displaying the extremes of every day life, just as he did with What's Eating Gilbert Grape. In Pieces of April, he brings his characters to life with a subtlety that does more explaining than any detail ever could have. He lets us inside the story and not just as an audience. He lets us in and lets us watch without taking us to an unbelievable world. It manages to give a deeper sensitivity to what is actually a very basic story line. While retaining a quality of fiction, it is undeniably realistic and relatable.
The movie itself is brilliant. With characters as loveable as they are despicable at times, you end up feeling their aches and pains, but ultimately the love of a family. And I think that's probably its most believable aspect.
- Stephanie Haselman | 2004-02-10