April Dreams

I admit it: I like Katie Holmes.

A lot of people think she can't act, but I have a movie that proves otherwise. Give "Pieces of April" a try. Instead of playing the sugar-sweet girl-next-door like she did in "Dawson's Creek" or embodying the aspiring-lawyer-who'll-take-on-the-world-to-save-it like she did in "Batman Begins," Katie plays an indie-rebel type who's estranged from her family and living in NYC. With her boyfriend. Who is black. And loves her very much. It's really sweet, actually, how much he loves her and she loves him.

The story is, April's family is a family without her. She never fit in as a kid, I guess, and they ostracized her so much that she finally went away when she grew up. They think this is great. They think (except maybe her father) that they're better off without her. But her mom is sick now, so she's invited them, for some reason that reveals more of her heart than they can ever see, into the city for Thanksgiving dinner at her place.

They don't know why she invited them. They don't even know why they're going. They (and I'm speaking primarily of her mom and younger sister here) keep trying to find excuses not to go. They even drive through Krispy Kreme to get food before they land at her house because, oh yeah, April's cooking, and "We'll need an extra dozen of those glazed donuts," her mom shouts through the window at the drive-up.

But on the flip side, April's working hard and like crazy to pull things together. It's a modest meal because she's making everything from the can -- green beans, yams, cranberries, mussels -- and getting the stuffing from a box. But she's managing, and managing with class, I must say. Her boyfriend even bought some cheap turkey-shaped salt-and-pepper shakers for the table, and she bought balloons and streamers for the stairway that climbs to her front door.

All along, as you get the family history through the back-and-forth scenes with the rest of the family, you can't help but wonder why April even bothered to invite them. Why she even cares so much. But she does.

And then her stove breaks.

She has to go from door to door -- in a rundown Manhattan building, mind you, where there's graffiti on the walk-up door and none of the neighbors know each other or talk or even make eye contact -- and ask for the use of someone's stove. Over the course of the movie, this blasted turkey sees the innards of four heat houses.

And when the family finally gets there, well . . . I'll let you find out how the story ends on your own.

This review should in no way act as a substitution for your own viewing of the movie. The film shots are spectacular, the dialogue is quippy and natural and funny, the story is heartbreaking and heartfilling both, and you can't take your eyes off the screen. Go rent -- or even buy -- it right now. Or this weekend. Or the next. You will not be disappointed, I promise.

Unless, that is, you're a grump or fundamental traditionalist. Whatever, of course, that term means. I'm pretty sure it has something to do with not being someone who gets that life is all about the stories of our hearts.