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"Pieces of April"

Directed by Peter Hedges.
Written by Peter Hedges.
Starring Katie Holmes, Derek Luke, Patricia Clarkson and Oliver Platt.
Release Year:  2003 
Review Date:  11/03 


Brett “Parlay” Stone and I have some advice for you—go check out “Pieces of April” right now, and stop your messin’ around. 

Why?  Because this is just a great, great movie.  It’s Thanksgiving at 7 AM, and April (Katie Holmes) and her boyfriend Bobby (Derek Luke) are trying to prepare dinner in time for April’s family, who are on their way to the New York City apartment where the happy young couple lives.  Here’s the thing, though—Bobby’s got an errand to run, so dinner is up to April, a renowned non-chef.  April’s family knows this too, including her mom Joy (Patricia Clarkson), dad Jim (Oliver Platt), siblings Timmy (John Gallagher, Jr.), Beth (Alison Pill), and Grandma (Alice Drummond).  After April’s oven breaks down, she is forced to find help from the neighbors to get her turkey cooked, which leads to more problems...but, hilarity ensues.

The first hour of “Pieces of April” is so funny that I thought I was going to get kicked out of the theater, I was laughing so damned loud.  There are at least half a dozen instant classics in that first hour, including a great sequence where the family hits the Krispy Kreme drive-thru (Grandma:  “They have donuts??”) and summarily demolishes said donuts in such a long, long chewing scene that Brett and I were laughing hysterically as family members downed donut after donut.  April’s neighbors Eugene (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) and Yvette (Lillias White) are fantastic; Eugene’s reaction when April tells him that she is planning on serving store-bought stuffing and cranberry sauce is hall-of-fame good, because as a viewer you can immediately see the passionate disappointment he has in any person who might try to serve only box stuffing at a family holiday meal.  All of the food-related things in “Pieces of April” work; as April struggles through her prep for the meal, there were many laughs in my audiences just at watching her try to do basic things like cut potatoes, in part because all of us have messed up at least some part of Turkey Day once and writer/director Peter Hodges seems to have knocked them all out here.

As the film settles into drama after the first hour, we are still given little comedic nuggets to snack on as we wait out the inevitable meeting between daughter and mother.  All of the performers are great here, and Clarkson in particular is pure magic.  Her Joy is anything but, as she is dying of cancer when the film opens and has no real interest in seeing her estranged daughter, making everyone else suffer with her as they drive from their home to April’s downtown apartment.  She also has the funniest line in the movie, after she has smoked a little weed in a rest-stop bathroom and is pretty loosey-goosey while she listens to a song on Timmy’s walkman.

Nothing bad to say about “Pieces of April”...except that I wish I had seen it sooner.

Rating:  Opening Weekend


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09