Pieces Of April

Former Dawson's Creek good-girl Katie Holmes overhauls her squeaky-clean image with her surprising portrayal of April, the punky black sheep of the Burns family who's determined to fix her family Thanksgiving dinner in her run-down New York City apartment. Virtually estranged from both her difficult mother, Joy (Patricia Clarkson), who's learned not to expect...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Former Dawson's Creek good-girl Katie Holmes overhauls her squeaky-clean image with her surprising portrayal of April, the punky black sheep of the Burns family who's determined to fix her family Thanksgiving dinner in her run-down New York City apartment. Virtually estranged from both her difficult mother, Joy (Patricia Clarkson), who's learned not to expect anything other than trouble from her oldest daughter, and her well-meaning father, Jim (Oliver Platt), April is now willing to effect a reconciliation: Joy, it turns out, has been diagnosed with cancer, and this Thanksgiving may be her last. Joy's certain that the dinner, like everything else in April's life, will end in disaster, but Jim is more optimistic; he thinks April, who dreams of being either a writer or a painter (for now, she's a waitress), might actually be getting herself together. She's found a new apartment in one of the Lower East Sides least gentrified blocks, and a new boyfriend, Bobby (Derek Luke), who seems willing to put up with her moods and generally abrasive personality. So Mom, Dad and the rest of the Burns family — including April's eager-to-please, perfectionist sister, Beth (terrific newcomer Alison Pill); her shutter-bug brother, Timmy (John Gallagher Jr.); and their senile grandmother, Dottie (Alice Drummond) — pile into the family wagon and head for the city. April, meanwhile, is trying to pull a complicated Thanksgiving meal together and is just about to pop the turkey into the oven when she realizes that it's broken. With no other recourse, she throws herself on the mercy of her neighbors, begging them the use of their oven for a few hours at a time. A surprising number agree, and as the Burns family make their way through suburban New Jersey, the film's simple but genuine message begins to take shape: No one, not April nor the Pilgrims, can go it alone. This gentle comedy marks the feature directing debut of writer Peter Hedges, a gifted writer who's perhaps best known for the screenplay based on his novel What's Eating Gilbert Grape, and his lead character poses a unique challenge for an actor. With little else to do other than race from apartment to apartment with a half-cooked turkey, April must somehow emerge as a fully formed, flesh-and-blood character with whom we can ultimately sympathize. The charismatic Holmes is certainly a good actor, but this tricky part requires a great one.

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  • Released: 2003
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: Former Dawson's Creek good-girl Katie Holmes overhauls her squeaky-clean image with her surprising portrayal of April, the punky black sheep of the Burns family who's determined to fix her family Thanksgiving dinner in her run-down New York City apartment.… (more)

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