The heaviest turkey ever

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By Kelly Dolejsi

No one wants to eat alone on Thanksgiving, not even girls with pink hair and neck tattoos, who are really just daughters, after all.

In Peter Hedges’ sweet 2004 drama “Pieces of April,” April Burns (Katie Holmes) has invited her suburban family to her Lower East Side apartment to celebrate the holiday. It will mark the first time her family has visited her new apartment, the first time she has cooked the family dinner, and, she hopes, the first time she and her family have enjoyed each other’s company.

April desperately wants her family, and her mother especially, to see that she is no longer a failure. She has changed. She has a job and a wonderful boyfriend. She can prepare Thanksgiving dinner.

But hers is the heaviest turkey that has ever lain in a roasting pan. She seems to think if she fails at Thanksgiving dinner, the rest of her successes mean nothing – or will mean nothing to her mother.

She is probably right.

The film cuts back-and-forth from April’s struggles with Mayflower-inspired cuisine to her family’s journey from Pennsylvania. Throughout the drive, April’s mother (Patricia Clarkson) expresses nothing but bitter dissatisfaction with her oldest daughter.

She raves about her son Timmy’s (John Gallagher Jr.) intimate portrait photography and praises her other daughter, Beth (Alison Pill), somewhat less enthusiastically, for her angelic singing. But April has no talents. She has never done anything admirable. She has never pleased her mother, not even as an infant.

Even April’s father (Oliver Platt), who appears to love all his children unconditionally, suggests that this is something of a last chance for April.

And now, the skinny black sheep with the cherry tattoo on her neck and the oven mitts on her hands has to be perfect.

The story plays on the archetypes of the overbearing mother, the rebellious daughter, and the sarcastic, self-important siblings. It also hits on the old theme of forgiveness at the holidays – families finding it easier to accept each other when they are sharing food, as though hearts and stomachs fill together.

It’s a warm, toasty film, with plenty of laughs, nostalgia (especially for mothers and daughters), and unforced weirdness. You’ll want to call someone close to you when it’s through.

The Los Alamos Film Society, in collaboration with UNM-Los Alamos, presents “Pieces of April” at 7 p.m. Thursday in the UNM-LA Lecture Hall. Admission is $5 or $3 with a UNM-LA student ID. The Los Alamos Film Society is part of the Los Alamos Arts Council. Call Marlane Hamilton at 663-0477 to join the Arts Council, or for more information.