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Pieces of April

Starring Katie Holmes, Patricia Clarkson, Oliver Platt, Derek Luke, Alison Pill, Sean Hayes
Written and Directed by Peter Hedges

IN SHORT: arthouse only. [Rated PG-13 for language, sensuality, drug content and images of nudity. 81 minutes]

Pieces of April is not a random connection of scenes set in that month nor is it a portrait of the psychological breakdown of a girl named April . . . well, it is that time of year when such stories are de rigueur Oscar wannabe fare. Pieces of April is not set during a morning in May, either, which is the answer to a question that's probably buried in a Trivial Pursuit card set somewhere. It is a pair of very well written stories, running parallel to each other. One of a family during a very long car ride from the country to a bustling New York City address. The second is of the happy loving couple waiting at that address, the family's eldest daughter and her boyfriend. The general family group is White. The fiance is not. With a bow to modernity, that is not the conflict of the story, an attempt to reunite an estranged mother and daughter before the mom drops from terminal cancer.

And how they loved it at Sundance, whose awards should be nicknamed "Attaboy!" (as in "Good start! Nice work! Better luck next time!) because that's about the speed of Pieces of April, a film which must be seen by novice and would be film makers. Only by doing so will they learn how bad camera work can destroy good performances in a good script. Film cameras are clunky and difficult. Video cameras are, in comparison, light and easy and totally seductive -- like a still camera, an operator feels (he) can keep something so small rather still. Director Peter Hedges, a pro still shooter, makes that mistake and his jittery camera work so intrudes upon a fine script that only the diehard festival and arthouse crowds will be able to sit for it.

The family in the car, including Patricia Clarkson and Oliver Platt as Ma and Pa pretty much don't want to be traveling to the big city. Ma is sick and doesn't care for her grown kid much. Pa wants a big happy family before it's too late and is more than happy that his daughter's boyfriend (Derek Luke) has pushed for this reunion event. Also in the car are the dopester brother (John Gallagher Jr.), smartass sister (Alison Pill) and senile grandma (Alice Drummond), who provide the great conflict of "are we there yet" vs. "can we go home instead?" to keep us all intrigued. Down in the city, April (Katie Holmes) is desperately trying to make a fine feast, discovering far too late that her tenement apartment kitchen has a nonfunctional oven. April gets fast introductions to a colorful assortment of multi-racial neighbors as she tries to borrow enough oven time to cook her bird.

It's a fine script with good performances to match. We understand the need to shoot on the cheap but we also have experience with that and, heck, the paying audience has a right to see something that looks better than a home movie.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Pieces of April, he would have paid . . .



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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.