Writer/director Peter Hedges has taken an under-served and ironic holiday — Thanksgiving — and given it a suitably ironic, home-movie style treatment. Is there a word for something that’s both irritating and touching? Poigntating? Annoyatant? Pieces of April provokes both reactions, though, in the end, the film pertains more toward pleasure than pain. April (Katie Holmes) is the bad seed of her family; she’s the child “you’re supposed to throw out,” as one character remarks in the film. She left the suburbs and moved to New York City, carving out a new life with boyfriend Bobby (Derek Luke). But with her mom, Joy (Patricia Clarkson), dying of breast cancer, April, the black sheep, wants to make good. How? The black sheep will bake a turkey for her family. Of course, she’s clueless about the enormity of cooking a Thanksgiving dinner. When her stove breaks down, she finds help — and horror — in her own apartment building. What’s irritating about this film? 1) The home-movie style camera work. OK, a slick production of this film would have been worse, but must the camera jiggle so? 2) Sean Hayes, who plays one of April’s neighbors, never finds a footing with his character. 3) Script inconsistencies and abrupt tonal shifts don’t help matters. As a metaphor for Thanksgiving itself, the film works beautifully. Watching April have to rely on her neighbors, all of whom she’s meeting for the first time, evokes the original premise by which we celebrate this holiday. With a script revision or two, and some careful attention to consistency — along with some Prozac for the camera — Pieces of April could have been that much better. At the same time, perhaps there’s a message in its medium. After all, what’s a word for something that’s both irritating and touching? Holiday.
Jim Poyser is Executive Director of Earth Charter Indiana, a statewide organization that was one of over two dozen nonprofit partners in Greening the Statehouse. A former managing editor of NUVO, he won HEC’s Environmentalist of the Year Award in 2013.