Thanksgiving is a couple weeks off yet, but I've got Halloween in the rear view mirror and I'm keen to get to the next food-centric holiday stop asap. Stacy and I started the new season friday night with Pieces of April, the best multi-cultural Thanksgiving celebration in Manhattan since Felicity's freshman year. Katie Holmes plays April, the outcast, wild-grrl daughter of her straight arrow, suburban parents. Joy (Patricia Clarkson as the facetiously named mother) is dying of breast cancer and Jim (Oliver Platt as the peacekeeping dad) has asked April to host Thanksgiving dinner for the family in her squalid East Village apartment.
The story switches between April's troubled feast preparation and her family's long and tense trip from the burbs. In both scenes, it's apparent that a chasm of resentment separates April and her mom and they are not looking forward to sharing the holiday. Patricia Clarkson's performance as the terminally ill and bitter mother is outstanding. She's alternately icy and hilarious with a good amount of irrational madness thrown in. I was never sure what she was going to do next; she is the parent you fear and the parent you love all in one.
I have a hard time seeing Katie Holmes apart from her Joey character on Dawson's Creek (which I watched once upon a time). I have her typecast as cute and harmless, so no matter how black her fingernail polish is and how ripped her fishnets are, she's still indecisive Joey. That said, the punk exterior isn't central to understanding the character and her relationship with her mom. The writer uses it as a the social clue to convey that April has a checkered past and was a difficult child. She has grown far apart from her parents, hurt them, and let the resentment grow on both sides. You don't need a certain style of clothes or hair to do that.
Pieces of April is a funny movie. I laughed at April's harried attempt to cook a meal and please her family and I laughed at how insane her family treats one another. It's hard to think your holidays are difficult once you see this bunch. But underneath the humor, heavy themes are lurking. The poor communication and the distance in the family, as well as the mother's terminal illness, are serious topics. Something here is likely to hit a nerve and make you think about what you are celebrating with your family this Thanksgiving. I am going to listen to April's explanation to the elderly Chinese couple. Thanksgiving is a time to come together, remember we can't do everything alone, and, above all, give thanks to those who help us make it through.