Things that spring to mind while watching Pieces Of April: familiar; derivative; lazy; where's the nearest exit? A lo-fi indie comedy set over the Thanksgiving holidays, Peter Hedges' film stars Katie Holmes as a young New Yorker struggling with broken ovens, angry neighbours and a lack of cooking skills while trying to make the perfect Thanksgiving dinner for her estranged folks. A collection of indie clichés, it's about as refreshing as being slapped in the face by a five-week-old kipper.
Racing against the clock, April has to stuff the turkey, deal with giblets, light the stove and peel the potatoes before Mom (Patricia Clarkson), Pop (Oliver Platt) and the rest of the dysfunctional brood arrive. There's only two problems:
a) April can't cook for toffee.
b) The oven's packed up, leaving her to rely on her cranky New York neighbours for their begrudging assistance.
Still it's not all bad news. With Mom suffering from terminal cancer and dad desperate to keep the family together, the odds of a tearful reunion before the credits roll seem like a dead cert.
"MORE SENTIMENT THAN SENSE"
Writer-director Peter Hedges was once revered in indie-land for penning What's Eating Gilbert Grape. Ten years on, his approach doesn't seem to have changed much. Spinning out this yarn with more sentiment than sense and lots of incidental quirkiness that's well past its sell-by-date, Pieces Of April is a decidedly secondhand tale. Don't believe us? Obviously you've never seen mid-90s cult classic road-trip comedy The Daytrippers.
Just as well there's a typically electric performance from Patricia Clarkson as April's ailing mom (who smokes joints to ease the cancer pain while listening to Smack Daddy) to keep the interest up. Yet even that isn't enough to make a piece of this botched Thanksgiving turkey seem even vaguely appetising.