For those of you have seen the movie, you may be wondering why I’m choosing to write about it now. Well, I can’t really tell you, it’s just one of those random movies that’s popped into my head. I guess I’ve been going through a nostalgic phase and looking back at movies that I used to watch almost religiously. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, it’s about a family trip to visit their outcast daughter who lives in New York. It’s different than any other Thanksgiving because not only is it April’s chance to prove to her family she’s not a screw up, but her mother’s very sick and it could very weel be their last. By every sense of the convention, it is a Thanksgiving movie. It has the canned Hollywood sensibility and moral of a Charlie Brown TV special. That doesn’t mean the movie doesn’t have heart though. It seems that some of the best-said things have… well, already been said. This is writer/director Peter Hedges directorial debut (since then he’s gone on to direct Dan in Real Life and nothing else) and at times, the film seems more focused on his trying to accomplish it than on originality.
Truth be told, the movie does have its flaws, including its rather predictable ending, but getting to the typical Thanksgiving ending is what it’s all about. It’s so much more about the journey that these characters go on than where they actual end up. It sounds like a terrible problem for a movie, but when you’re dealing with such an established type of movie, such as the feel-good family “insert random holiday here” movie, it’s difficult to find a truly original movie. Hedges makes the right choice by focusing instead on the journey and more importantly, his characters. One of the most memorable characters is the rather ironically named mother, Joy, played beautifully by Patricia Clarkson. That, to me at least, is already well-worth the rental of the movie. Joy is such a strong character, despite all of the issues she has with her life, and Patricia Clarkson knows just how to play it. personally, I’ll watch just about anything that Patricia Clarkson is, but this is one role where it’s fair to say that she excels. Other well-known actors and actresses make memorable appearances in the movie such as Oliver Platt, Allison Pill, and Sean Hayes.
Now for the news that typically turns readers and viewers off when they hear about this movie. The titular character, April? There’s a reason I haven’t said the actress playing her because people have a hard time giving it a chance. It’s Katie Holmes in a post-Creek and pre-Cruise era. Granted, I wouldn’t have chosen here to lead the movie, but she proves that she’s quite capable with this movie. Sure, Clarkson steals the show, but that leaves plenty of screen time where Holmes has to carry the movie and she manages to do it.
Like I said, the movie is not without its problems, mainly its reliance on standards of the genre, but it’s an enjoyable piece. Patricia Clarkson’s heartbreakingly honest performance as a mother is what truly sells me on the piece, but there are definitely other aspects to enjoy. The supporting cast lends itself to the premise in a strong way and Hedge shows that he knows how to use his actors. Even for people who have an issue with Holmes, Pieces of April is an emotionally sincere directorial effort from first-time director Peter Hedges.