Monday, 25 August 2008

Pieces of April

2003. Dir: Peter Hedges. Starring: Katie Holmes, Patricia Clarkson, Derek Luke, Sean Hayes and Oliver Platt. ●●●○○

Pieces of April has a relatively simple premise. April Burns (Holmes) prepares a thanksgiving meal for her family and things don't go entirely to plan. There are comic situations arising from April's broken oven, and pitch balck performances from the family from hell on their way to see her.

Indeed as a comedy it works, there are a lot of laughs to be had watching April trying to prepare the food or in Joy's (Clarkson) asides. When she asks her daughter to stop singing you really don't know whether to laugh or to want to give her a slap.

One of the main problems with the film is that very few of the characters come across as sympathetic or rounded. Only Oliver Platt delivers anything beyond a braod caricature as he tries to keep the family together.

Indeed some of the supporting characters seem to be completely irredeemable - yes, Sean Hayes we're looking at your bizarre performance, and Alison Pill as April's sister is given nothing positive to say in the entire film. Also I find it extremely difficult to believe that Aprils knows as little as she does about cooking - her appaling attempts to peel an onion are one thing but surely no-one would be stupid enough to attempt to mash uncooked potatoes for as long as she keeps it up.

Even the set decoration doesn't make much sense - the claustrophobia and student kitsch appeal of the main apartment work well, but the other apartments almost appear to be in different areas of the city, with vastly different sized flats. I just can't imagine that the Sean Hayes character would spend that much money on a new oven and yet stay in that block.

Tami Reiker's handheld camerawork gives a nice lo-fi feel to the proceedings and Laura Cunningham's costumes and the hair an make-up team make each character feel more lived in than some of the performances do.

Overall I would say Pieces of April is a pleasant little comedy with unpleasant characters. Fairly enjoyable fluff but not enough to go out a buy it.

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