Pieces of April

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Bob Movies, Nov 4, 2003.

  1. Bob Movies

    Bob Movies Stunt Coordinator

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    I saw "Pieces of April" last night, and I absolutely loved it. It's a funny, touching tale of a family reuniting for Thanksgiving. I can't recommend it highly enough, just a really great story with fantastic actors. It starts Katie Holmes, Oliver Platt, Derek Luke, and Patricia Clarkson. It was written and Directed by Peter Hedges, who wrote "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" (the novel and the screenplay) and the adaptation of "About A Boy" (for which he was nominated for the Oscar last year).

    When I saw the trailers for this, I promised myself that I wouldn't go see it in the cinema because it was shot on DV, and I'm not a fan of DV. If I'm going to pay $13.50 for a movie, it should look good! As I was reading more about how the movie got made, I read some interviews with Peter Hedges about the difficulties they had getting it financed. Apparently they had the movie set up three different times with budgets between $4 million and $7 million, but all of them fell through. Finally, he teamed up with InDigEnt and made it for $200,000 on DV with a 16 day shooting schedule.

    I was surprised at how good the DV looked. It wasn't 35mm, but it was more than acceptable as far as visual quality. If I wasn't such a movie nerd I doubt I'd be able to tell that it was anything other than a "regular" movie. I saw a 35mm print (not a digital screening) and it looked great. The reason it looked great, more than anything else, wasn't anything technical... It was because the story was so good. I simply wasn't thinking about the format it was filmed on because I was too busy getting to know the characters, laughing at all the funny parts, and crying when it was sad.

    This was an inspiring movie. Immediately after I saw it I bought the script and read it. Peter Hedges gives some very insightful commentary on how scenes were changed during the filming to simplify the story. It's a fantastic script, and a fantastic movie, and I highly recommend it!

    Bob
     
  2. Ricardo C

    Ricardo C Producer

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    I'm really looking forward to this one, partly because I'm a huge Katie Holmes fanboy and want to see her film career take off, and partly because the premise alone sounds terrific. Glad you liked it so much [​IMG]
     
  3. Chris Moe

    Chris Moe Screenwriter

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    I saw it over the weekend. I too thought it was quite good. It is touching, funny and well acted. I enjoyed it a lot.
     
  4. Vickie_M

    Vickie_M Producer

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    It has its moments. Patricia Clarkson is great in it. Katie Holmes is great in it too, but she's horribly miscast as the character of April.

    From the moment we first see her, we fall in love with April. She's obviously a misfit, but a very lovable misfit.

    Her family seems nice (though mom is having a tough time), but pretty straight and "suburban." No problem with that, and they seem like good folks.

    We can see why the family ties might be strained just a bit, so the plot that we know is coming is set up delightfully.

    Unfortunately, as the movie goes on and you learn just how FAR April is estranged from her family, things just don't seem to fit. It falls apart completely (for me and my husband, anyway) when we learn that the mother can't recall one nice moment with April (the couple moments that she does remember turn out to be the other daughter). That does not jive with the eccentric, sorta punky, but seemingly sweet-natured April we've seen trying to get her turkey cooked. Either April should have been played by someone like Courtney Love, or Holmes should have played her as far more unlikeable.

    Btw, I've never seen a second of Dawson's Creek, and the only other thing I remember seeing Holmes in is Go, so I'm not projecting another "nice" character onto her. The way she plays April, even with a bit of rudeness now and again (toward the prissy neighbor, for instance) you still really really like her, and her boyfriend.

    I hope the DVD has deleted scenes, that will explain a bit more about how such a nice girl could grow up and avoid showing her family even one second of the sweet personality we meet in NYC. Or how her seemingly nice family is so hellishly selfishly horrible that they do not see one second of April's niceness in all the years she lived with them.

    I was anxious to see it after the buzz at Sundance, so I'd never tell anyone else they shouldn't see it. It is worth seeing, if only for Patricia Clarkson. Apparantly no one else has had the problems we had with the film.
     
  5. Brook K

    Brook K Lead Actor

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    The Atlanta newspaper reviewer, Eleanor Ringol Gillespie, gave this an "A" review and said its the best Thanksgiving movie ever, or something like that. Hope to get a chance to see it before it leaves town.
     
  6. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    Interesting observations, Vicki. I suppose this is just another example of how personal one's reaction is to films that are character-driven. I too have never seen Dawson's Creek, but I certainly didn't fall in love with April, at first sight or last. As Katie Holmes plays her, she's pretty and charming, but she's also a flake without a practical bone in her body. If I'd been one of the neighbors on whose door she knocked, I'd have said, sorry, can't help you -- and closed the door.

    Which isn't to say that I didn't enjoy April's exploits in the movie. Some of the funniest moments come from her sheer ineptitude at preparing a Thanksgiving dinner. Holmes makes it funny, because she shows just how single-mindedly determined April is to do something about which she clearly has only the vaguest clue.

    I'd say the film offers two explanations for April's estrangement from her family. The superficial and obvious one is the history of drug use; April's mother, Joy, makes reference to it, and we know that April's former boyfriend is a dealer. Even if one finds the April of the movie to be a sweet-natured charmer (and I don't), heavy substance abuse changes people.

    But there's another reason for the estrangement that I think emerges throughout the film. Joy Burns, even before her illness, has clearly been the center around which the Burns family revolves. Part of the brilliance of Clarkson's performance is to show you the iron will with which Joy has run (and continues to run) her family, even as she fights a battle with cancer that, as Joy now realizes, she is soon going to lose. At various moments, you can see her saying to herself, "Oh, what the hell!", just before she does something frivolous and totally out of character.

    April has obviously inherited her mother's ability to bend people to her will and to make those she encounters revolve around her. You see it with her boyfriend; you see it with her father (it's obvious that she went through her father to persuade the family to come for Thanksgiving); and you see it with all the neighbors that she gets to help her (maybe one has to live in a New York City apartment to appreciate just how strong are the barriers that April breaches in her quest for a working oven).

    In short, April and Joy are both queen bees, and there's only room for one of those in any household. I got the sense of a past in which the two of them fought furiously over nothing, while the rest of the family sat glumly waiting for the storm to pass. The fact that Joy can't dredge up a single good memory of April tells you just how bitter their rivalry must have been.

    I loved the film, and I particularly appreciated writer/director Hedges' restraint at certain key points. There are scenes that could have been stretched out or overdone for sentiment (the end of the film is an obvious example), but Hedges resists the temptation. I'm looking forward to the DVD; this goes on my list of annual holiday viewing.

    M.
     
  7. Vickie_M

    Vickie_M Producer

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    Originally posted in a different thread:

    (Btw Michael, I didn't get a chance to re-post in the thread about it, but your post made me see Pieces of April in a different light. I will watch it again with a different attitude. I wanted to tell you while it was on my mind. I wasn't ignoring you on purpose)
     
  8. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    No problem, Vicki. I took the liberty of moving the post to the right thread. I hope you enjoy your second viewing; I'm certainly looking forward to mine!

    M.
     
  9. Edwin Pereyra

    Edwin Pereyra Producer

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    I also enjoyed Pieces of April and found the relationships to be touching and compelling. At first, I had reservations about the ending but since the story is one of reconciliation, I warmed up to it.

    In some parts, the lighting is not that great with one very obvious and overexposed shot.

    Having been in New York City and seen how people live there, April’s situation with her neighbors brought back some very fond observations.

    ~Edwin
     

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