Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video

Katie Holmes as April (Photo: UA)

Directed by: Peter Hedges.
Produced by: Gary Winick & Alexanian.
Written by: Peter Hedges.
Director of Photography: Tami Reiker.
Edited by: Mark Livolsi.
Music by: Stephin Merritt.
Released by: UA.
Country of Origin: USA. 80 min. Rated: PG-13.
With: Katie Holmes, Patricia Clarkson, Derek Luke & Oliver Platt.
DVD Special Features: Commentary by: Peter Hedges. "All the Pieces Together" Featurette. Trailer

April Burns (Holmes) is the self-described first pancake, “the one you’re suppose to throw out.” To her ailing mother, the ironically named Joy, her eldest daughter is her cancer. For the first time since leaving her white-bread suburban family, April has invited them for Thanksgiving in her run-down Lower East Side apartment, which she shares with her black boyfriend Bobby (Luke). April’s a rebel, after all she wears combat boots and black nail polish. And never having used her oven, she discovers that it doesn’t work just as her family hits the road. Calling out and knocking on her neighbors’ doors, her search for an available oven is humorous, but Holmes’s quest lacks urgency. This is symptomatic of her performance. Holmes doesn’t so much react as put on an appropriate expression, whether a door is being slammed in her face or she’s confronting a lonely neighbor (Sean Hayes) who has kidnapped her turkey. His is a sitcom performance set adrift, and together their scenes reveal a lack of rehearsal. However, John Gallagher, Jr. and Alison Pill - playing her younger brother and sister, Timmy and Beth - are both living in their character’s skin. Pill is especially endearing and over the top as an ingratiating daughter competing for her parents’ affection. And Clarkson, with great timing, brings out Joy’s dark sense of humor. As in his screenplay of What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (based on his novel), first time director Hedges’ writing depicts the nuances and shifting alliances within a family. However, this uneven cast doesn’t completely fulfill the potential of his sharp and perceptive script. KT
October 21, 2003

DVD Extras: Commentary with Hedges is extremely valuable, as he describes his original intent of his screenplay - which can get somewhat lost in the overall effect of the film - as well as his directorial decisions. However, Hedges performs the entire feature-length discussion with little or no inflection in his voice, making it somewhat difficult to listen. "All the Pieces Together" is worthwhile; we are shown stills (Timmy's photography, referred to in the film) juxtaposed with film clips and illuminatng interviews with the cast. Lisette Johnson
March 7, 2004



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