Pieces of April deserves to be cut

Nov. 24, 2003, midnight | By Caitlin Garlow | 17 years, 1 month ago

April Burns (Katie Holmes) is the first pancake, the black sheep, the screw up. When she was little, she cut her brother's bangs with a lighter. She lit matches and threw them at her sister. Her frequent run-ins with the police for drug abuse, shoplifting, and skipping school have left her mother, Joy Burns (Patricia Clarkson) without a single good "April memory." And while it contains a few humorous scenes and some touching moments, Pieces of April could not be included in a list of all time favorites.

Holmes's transformation from the girl next door to "wanna-be" punk doesn't really work. Her auburn locks, almost always in place, are tangled into pigtails filled with vibrant red highlights. But Holmes's face, framed with crimson bangs, still wears the same pensive look. Heavy eyeliner, beaded hemp, combat boots, and April's signature cherry tattoos on her neck, requires the viewers of Dawson's Creek to do a double take. But because Holmes alters only her physical appearance andnot her personality, the character change is not believable.

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, April decides to invite her family members to her apartment in the Lower East Side for dinner in hopes of mending broken family relationships, especially with her mother, who has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Only April's sister, Beth, puts up a fight about the trip to New York as the family piles into their station wagon to prepare for a five-hour trip filled with many repetitive scenes. Joy gets sick numerous times on the way up, nearly always followed by Beth pestering her father to return home because of her mother's feeble condition. Jim, in turn, assures the family that visiting April will make them all feel better.

On Thanksgiving morning, after being dragged out from under the covers by her boyfriend Bobby, April begins to prepare the turkey. April's first attempt at cooking goes well with only one minor mishap; she drops the turkey on her apartment floor. But then she realizes that her oven is not working.

She begins to search for an empty oven in her apartment building, where the residents, until then, had been strangers. Eugene and Evette, a helpful African American couple, allow April to borrow their oven for an hour to start cooking her turkey while she looks for another, more permanent substitute.

Once her hour expires, April wanders the halls again searching for an oven for her turkey. She tries to get help from her flamboyant neighbor Wayne, who brags of his brand new self-cleaning oven. However, his uppity and somewhat perverse manner leaves her without an oven and without a turkey for a while. Her other options lie in a vegan lady upstairs, a Chinese family, and an elderly gentleman living in a cat-infested apartment, but to ask for help from each requires April to overcome cultural, language, and personal barriers.

Pieces of April does have a few humorous moments, which attempt to compensate for the shallow plot. April, a horrific hostess, receives quite a few laughs as she tries to mash potatoes without cooking them first, puts stuffing in the turkey using celery sticks as utensils, and props up her folding table on books to make a proper dining room table.

Themes in Pieces of April could hit home for many of its teen viewers, but for the most part the movie is clichéd and ineffective at provoking emotion. Instead of illuminating the wonders of forgiveness, it highlights the horrors of dysfunctional families. In other words, it doesn't really make you want to go home for the holidays.

Pieces of April is rated PG-13 for language, sensuality, drug content, and images of nudity. It is playing at Landmark Bethesda Row 8 and Loews Dupont Circle 5.

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Caitlin Garlow. Caitlin is a second-semester senior at last. Her favorite things include making fun of her homeless sister and hunting down her clothes in other people's closets. More »

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