DirectorPeter Hedges ScreenplayPeter Hedges Duration CountryUnited States
Release dateOctober 17, 2003 (2003-10-17) CastKatie Holmes (April), Derek Luke (Bobby), Patricia Clarkson (Joy Burns), Oliver Platt (Jim Burns), Alison Pill (Beth Burns), John Gallagher Jr. (Timmy Burns) Similar moviesThe Last Days of Disco, Factory Girl, Happy Endings, Irreversible, The Wolf of Wall Street, Proof
TaglineShe's the one in every family.
Pieces of April is a 2003 American comedy-drama film written and directed by Peter Hedges. The film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. The name is taken from a 1972 hit song by Three Dog Night, which reached No. 19 on the Billboard Hot 100.
April Burns, the eldest daughter in a highly dysfunctional family, lives in a small tenement apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan with her boyfriend Bobby. Although estranged from her family, she opts to invite them for Thanksgiving dinner, probably the last for her mother Joy, who has breast cancer.
The film focuses on three journeys: the family's arduous trek from suburbia to New York City, punctuated by stops for Krispy Kreme doughnuts, bagels, Joy's frequent need for a restroom or a joint to ease her pain, a burial service for an animal they hit, and various arguments and recriminations, as well as discussions of their disappointment in April; Bobby's efforts to find a suit so he can make a good impression on his girlfriend's relatives; and April's preparations for the meal, a near disaster when she discovers her oven is broken. With the help of various neighbors, she manages to assemble dinner, while learning to appreciate the importance of family and making some new friends in the process.
Katie Holmes as April Burns, a young woman living alone in New York City, who decides to make a Thanksgiving dinner for her family in her small and poor apartment, despite the fact that she has never gotten along with them.
Derek Luke as Bobby, April's sweet boyfriend, who is very much in love with her.
Oliver Platt as Jim Burns, April's father, who has real hope that April and the rest of the family can have a nice Thanksgiving dinner together.
Patricia Clarkson as Joy Burns, April's mom, who is very sick with breast cancer, who is very hesitant to go to April's home because she has been so angry at her for so long.
Alison Pill as Beth Burns, April's younger sister, who feels the family should not even try to have dinner with April, since that would be too stressful for her mom.
John Gallagher, Jr. as Timmy Burns, April's younger brother, who loves to take pictures of everything going on in his family.
Alice Drummond as Grandma Dottie, April's grandmother and Joy's mom, who is both very sweet and losing her memory.
Sean Hayes as Wayne, April's very strange upstairs neighbor who agrees to let her use his oven after her own oven stops working.
Isiah Whitlock, Jr. as Eugene
Lillias White as Evette, a tenant in April's building she asks for help
Leila Danette as a tenant in April's building she asks for help
Sisqó as Latrell
Adrian Martinez as Man in Mohair Sweater
In his commentary on the film's DVD release, Hedges says the inspiration for his screenplay was twofold — his mother's battle with and death from cancer and a true story about a group of friends who had "borrowed" an apartment to prepare a communal Thanksgiving dinner. However, the oven in the apartment did not work so they had to go door to door in the building, trying to find an oven in which to cook their turkey.
Shot in just 16 days on a budget of $100,000. Costs were kept this low by the film company InDigEnt cutting a deal with the unions. This meant that Peter Hedges was paid $10 to direct the film, and another $10 to write it. All the actors worked for $248 a day.
The film-review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 84% based on reviews from 146 critics, with an average rating of 7.1/10.
Elvis Mitchell of The New York Times, called the film an "intelligent and touching farce" and added, "Mr. Hedges dances from one vignette to another with a mouthwatering finesse." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times said "it contains much good humor" and "has a lot of joy and quirkiness; it's well-intentioned in its screwy way, with flashes of human insight, and actors who can take a moment and make it glow." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine, described it as "a playful comedy laced with heartbreak," adding, "It's Holmes who holds Pieces together . . . [she] nails every laugh without missing the dramatic nuances. She makes April and her movie well worth knowing." Carla Meyer of the San Francisco Chronicle called the film " both heartfelt and tough-minded . . . [it] avoids sentimentality at every turn and truly earns both its laughs and its tears."
Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly, rated the film C, calling it a "glib comedy" and adding, "Hedges shoves his characters into sitcom slots and seals them there."
The film earned a total of approximately $3.2 million worldwide.
Awards and nominations
Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress (Patricia Clarkson, nominee)
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture (Clarkson, nominee)
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role - Motion Picture (Clarkson, nominee)
Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize for Outstanding Dramatic Performance (Clarkson, winner)
Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay (nominee)
Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actress (Clarkson, nominee)
British Independent Film Award for Best Foreign Film (nominee)
Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress (Clarkson, winner)
Chicago International Film Festival Audience Choice Award (Peter Hedges, winner)
Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress (Clarkson, winner)
Florida Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress (Clarkson, winner)
National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress (Clarkson, winner)
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress (Clarkson, winner)
San Francisco Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress (Clarkson, winner)
Satellite Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, Comedy or Musical (Clarkson, winner)
Vancouver Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress (Clarkson, winner)
Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Original Screenplay (nominee)
Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Overlooked Film of the Year (winner)
Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Directing Breakout of the Year (nominee)