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Pieces of April

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Katie Holmes looks for the hidden
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not playing Pippi Longstocking in a
big-budget Walt Disney event film.

Pieces of April
Review written by: Alex Sandell

I can't write a standard review for this film.  I wrote three different drafts over four long hours, and each one came out worse than the last.  I felt an emotional connection with Pieces of April, and it's one that I can't spell out in three or four paragraphs.  It is better summed up in the way my voice trembled when I described the movie to my mom.  The smile that stretches across my face when I imagine all the varied and interesting characters scattered throughout the film.  The hope I have for the future of independent cinema when I see what Peter Hedges, making his directorial debut, managed to create for less than $300,000. 

I have waited for this film since 1993.  It was that year when Peter Hedges turned his quirky novel, What's Eating Gilbert Grape, into an excellent screenplay, and, in the process, brought to life some of the most memorable characters in cinematic history.  Hedges went on to write a couple of nifty film adaptations of other people's novels (A Map of the World, About a Boy), and another book of his own, but let the better part of a decade slip by without bringing any more of his original work to the screen.  Ten years after Gilbert, he comes out with Pieces of April -- a film so full of oddball fun and heart wrenching moments, I can happily report that it was well worth the wait.

The movie isn't perfect.  There are a couple of jokes that are too broad for the overall tone of the film.  It should have ended approximately 1 minute before it actually did (Hedges talked to the audience about this during a question and answer session after the movie, and the moment he considered ending the film was the exact moment where I had wished it would end).  The digital video used to keep the budget down gives the film an intimate and personal feel, but also makes the movie come across as grainy and low-budget.  Pieces of April essentially turns into a heartwarming Holiday tale shot through the dirty digital lens of 28 Days Later.  I think audiences have started to associate this look too much with horror movies to easily accept it in a comedy drama.  But there's much, much more good than there is bad in Pieces of April.

The movie is brimming with life.  From start to finish, the film is immensely immersing.  As with Gilbert Grape, the dialogue is incredibly authentic.  The story is moving to the point where it's hard not to shed a tear.  Emotion often comes from the softest of places.  Tender moments where April, becoming more and more determined to create the perfect Thanksgiving dinner for her family, pulls the turkey salt and pepper shakers from the garbage where she threw them, and tries her best to make her small apartment table fit for a feast.   

The film evokes dozens of memories of your first stab at making it on your own.  It also reminds you of your first love, your first Thanksgiving away from home.  Your first loss and your first time starting over.  Your first hug after a longtime battle with a family member or friend.  The bitter loneliness of not being accepted the first time being accepted is the only thing that you want out of life.  Or it may remind you of none of the above.  What you take from it you'll take because of who you are, and what you've been through.  In that way, Pieces of April is more like a favorite song or poem. 

Everyone can pull a "piece" out of this film and use it as a personal statement.  A memory.  A photo album of a family that's not quite your own, but, at moments, comes frighteningly close.  The movie comes straight from the heart, and has a certain sincerity that could make it an instant holiday classic.

On a scale of 1-10?

9

What does this rating mean?  Everyone rates things differently.  Your "5" could be my "7," or vice-versa.  Find out what MY rating means by clicking here

Agree? Disagree? Feeling bored and wanna write a letter that you'll probably never get a response to?  Email me at alex@juicycerebellum.com 

Coming soon -- Reviews of The Matrix Revolutions, The Human Stain and Runaway Jury!

Other recent film reviews on THE JUICY CEREBELLUM (click on a film's title to go to its review):

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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

House of the Dead

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Mystic River

The Rundown

Cold Creek Manor

The Fighting Temptations

Underworld

Once Upon a Time in Mexico

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Text (Copyright) 2003 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved].