Pieces of April: A Tragic Comedy of Thanksgiving by Peter Hedges

An Honest Look at Pain and Love

Only a great comedy can help us face the painful truths of life. If you are ready to laugh as you are exposed to the rejection, hurt, and anger that come up in family life, then see Pieces of April by Peter Hedges. As he points out, when we see how painful life is, we see how triumphant even a small moment of love can be.

Katie Holmes Plays April Burns

Katie Holmes brings an intensity to the depths of anger, frustration, and love when she plays April Burns.
Katie Holmes brings an intensity to the depths of anger, frustration, and love when she plays April Burns. | Source

Pieces of April: A Spoiler-Free Plot Summary

Pieces of April occurs all in one day - a day that is supposed to be a celebration, a day that is often very challenging - Thanksgiving. The drama is in three journeys. If all three succeed, then this Thanksgiving will be a lasting and treasured memory, and a healing of a family broken apart when the eldest daughter left home and became estranged in a very painful way. If even one of the journeys fails, then this last chance to heal old family wounds will be lost forever.

April, living with her boyfriend Bobby, faces the challenge of making a Thanksgiving dinner for her family. Clearly, she and Bobby have never cooked before. And things get worse when she takes her shoes out of the oven and sets it to pre-heat - only to discover that it doesn't work. How many neighbors must she meet before she can get her turkey cooked? And what will she learn along the way?

Bobby can't help April cook because he must go on a mysterious errand to make the day succeed. And his own errand turns dangerous at the last moment.

April's family - her mother and father, and her younger brother and sister, need to make a road trip down into the city to see April for Thanksgiving dinner. They must pick up an aging grandmother along the way. Only the daily tragedy and trauma of genuine family life could make such a simple trip so difficult, so painful, and so hilarious.

Creating Happy Memories

Can we get past our bad memories to make a good memory?

If this question matters in your life, see Pieces of April.

If you've seen Pieces of April, rate it here!

5 out of 5 stars from 2 ratings of Pieces of April, the movie by Peter Hedges

Phenomenal Directing, Cinemetography, and Acting

"A Work of Imagination, Seasoned by Life"

This is how Peter Hedges, writer and director of Pieces of April, describes the movie. He wrote it as a tribute to his mother while she was dying, and that plays into the feeling of the whole movie. That passion, plus Peter Hedges insightful understanding of the pain and anger of everyday family life, and the love that lies hidden underneath the constant sniping that goes on, gives the movie it's drama. Will these ordinary people overcome grief, fear, and pain to make an extraordinary memory?

A Comedy for Cooks

My wife and I both like to cook. We were laughing so hard at the turkey stuffed with store-bought dressing, a whole onion, and whole stalks of celery and the sight of angry, red-headed April trying to mash raw potatoes (Don't you cook those first?) that we were able to bear the painful truth of her anger and watch her flower.

April Burns may never grow up to be much of a cook, but she becomes a fine daughter and sister, and a wonderful woman.

The Faces That Make the Movie

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Patricia Clarkson, smiling here, does not smile often as April's mother, Joy.Oliver Platt plays April's father, Jim Burns, a man on a mission to reunite with his estranged (and rather strange) daughter.Alison Pill is happy here, but her character, April's little sister Beth, is much more of a pill than Alison is!
Patricia Clarkson, smiling here, does not smile often as April's mother, Joy.
Patricia Clarkson, smiling here, does not smile often as April's mother, Joy. | Source
Oliver Platt plays April's father, Jim Burns, a man on a mission to reunite with his estranged (and rather strange) daughter.
Oliver Platt plays April's father, Jim Burns, a man on a mission to reunite with his estranged (and rather strange) daughter. | Source
Alison Pill is happy here, but her character, April's little sister Beth, is much more of a pill than Alison is!
Alison Pill is happy here, but her character, April's little sister Beth, is much more of a pill than Alison is! | Source

Play With the Names

Is April's mother really Joy? Is her grandmother really Dottie? And, at the end of the day, is it April who Burns the turkey? This may be April's Thanksgiving, but Thanksgiving isn't in April, and, in this movie, even the names are part of the surprise.

MPAA Rating PG-13

Pieces of April is not a moving for young kids - it deals with very serious life issues in a profound and funny way. Yet it can be a great conversation-starter with your teens on topics like how to keep getting along as the kids get older and move away from home, and also on serious issues of life and family conflict.

Up Close and Personal

Exceptional cinematography, often with a hand-held camera, captures intense emotions and dialog. Much of the movie takes place in tiny apartments and over-crowded kitchens. I've lived in New York, and the film does an excellent job of capturing the feeling of a life cramped into these tiny, grungy spaces. The film's deep reds and dark city landscape, car and bathroom interiors punctuated by a Disney-esque view of a suburban turnpike evoke the characters' darker feelings and fears.

A Phenomenal Cast

Peter Hedges did a phenomenal job casting for Pieces of April. Let's start with the smaller parts because, together, they do not detract - in fact, they create the missing pieces that April must bring together to become whole. Derek Luke plays a black city kid - gone straight, we hope - in love with April as they both get their acts together with humor, teasing, and a bit of sex. Pieces of April was his second movie, and, quite deservedly, he's moved on in one hit after another every since.

Alison Pill took the flat role of the un-loved brat of a younger sister and made it into a full part, enriching the depth of both April and her mother, played by Patricia Clark. Clark creates a masterful, dark portrait of a mother and a woman who has suffered through more than anyone should have to bear, and who takes it out on everyone. Yet, beneath the pain she feels and causes is a heart that might just break through in time for a surprising Spring, if only she can reach April and find the real meaning of Thanksgiving.

Seasoned actor Oliver Platt plays April's father, a man caught in the middle. He's the only member of the suburban family who even talks to April, or has any hope for a good Thanksgiving with her. He is, paradoxically, a chubby suburban man on a mission to save his daughter and his wife. John Gallagher, Jr., plays the challenging role of the kid brother with the camera. (Is that a stand-in for the director/writer in a lot of movies? It went that way in Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding, too.) He does it well, too, holding his family's pain, doing what he can, and bringing unexpected moments of lightness and joy. It's no surprise that he went on to win a a Tony Award in 2007 for his portrayal of Moritz in "Spring Awakening."

The role of April took Katie Holmes out of televisionland and Dawson's Creek into the world of Hollywood movies. And an actress who gets top ratings for cuteness and beauty plays a normal, somewhat homely, angry young woman without a trace of glamor, and does it very well, indeed. In dialog with everyone from a disturbed dog-owner to a happy, snippy black couple to a Chinese family who can't understand a word she says, and also hauling a turkey up and down the stairs of a grimy New York walk-up and chopping vegetables with murder in her heart, she reveals the inner life of a woman who is just discovering what she can become - if only she and the turkey can survive the day!

Buy Movies from Peter Hedges from Amazon

Pieces of April
Pieces of April

Pieces of April on DVD, with an excellent 15-minute background documentary by Peter Hedges and the cast discussing how and why Pieces of April came to be.

 
Dan In Real Life
Dan In Real Life

Dan in Real Life on DVD, another great movie by Peter Hedges

 

The Final Message

"Love is not a feeling, it's an ability." Derek Luke, the actor who plays April's boyfriend Bobbie.

The Meaning of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is, ultimately, about surviving against overwhelming odds and discovering that we need one another. After a crisis - such as the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 or the fall of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 - people are kind-hearted for a few months before we return to our daily grind - and grinding one another down. The Pilgrims survived such a crisis with the help of the Native Americans and gave thanks, and we remember that in the US each year at the end of November.

The drama of Pieces of April lies in the question of whether the family will cut through the pain and fear into which their lives have descended and rise up to create a moment to be thankful for. The humor is in the absurdity surrounding the very real dark feelings that, shown in this family, reveal truths about every family. And the joy is in the victory of the human heart transcending the pain of the past.

See Pieces of April this November. And keep an eye on Peter Hedges. I was a little unsure of his latest work, The Odd Life of Timothy Green, but now I'm going to go see it for sure, and catch up with some of his other masterpieces, like Dan in Real Life, as well.

More by this Author


Comments 11 comments

KrisL profile image

KrisL 4 years ago from S. Florida

Thanks, Sid. I love this movie, but reading your review made me see how deep it is, as well as very funny!


SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 4 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

It's wonderful, isn't it. And thanks for your appreciation. Let's keep giving thanks until Thanksgiving!


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 4 years ago from Los Angeles

Hi Sid,

Thank you for your engaging review! I'd not known of Peter Hedges before. You've piqued my interest, and I will see Pieces of April by Thanksgiving:)


SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 4 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Hey Cat! Enjoy it, then come back and let us know what you think!


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 4 years ago from Los Angeles

will do!


lindacee profile image

lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona

I have not seen the movie, but I will be renting it around Thanksgiving time thanks to your evocative review!


SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 4 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Thanks, Linda! This is really encouraging, as this was my first movie review. Come back and tell us what you liked most!


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York

I haven't seen the movie yet, but I definitely want to see it now! Great review, Sid - I'm glad it is out on DVD (we don't get out to the movies much, but DVD's are a great option since we don't have to hire a babysitter)!


Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 4 years ago

This sounds like my kind of movie! It might actually remind me of my own kitchen blunders on my first Thanksgiving in America. I'd also love to see how the use of a hand-held camera affects the scenes. So I'm putting this on my Netflix list for sure. Thanks for the interesting review, Sid.


SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 4 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Please come back and let us know what you think. I'd be very interested to hear how this very New York movie was for a Bangkokian and Californian.


SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 4 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

When you watch the DVD, please be sure to watch the extras - the interviews with director and cast are insightful!

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working