Summary of the Movie
The movie Pieces of April is about a young lady, April, and her dysfunctional family whom she has invited for a Thanksgiving dinner in her apartment in a poor side of Manhattan, New York. The movie introduces April and her Afro-American boyfriend, Bobby, on the morning of the Thanksgiving holiday where April is defiant, but Bobby motivates her to go through with the plans. From their dialogue, the relationship between April and her family, or lack of it, is explained. She is the black sheep of the family who has rebelled from childhood. April all the same wakes up to prepare the feast while Bobby goes out to borrow a suit to impress the family. It is then that April realizes that her stove is broken and makes a lot of effort to get the neighbors to help in preparing the meal. Meanwhile, her family is preparing to travel to New York. In their drive into the city from the suburbs, the dialogues between April’s father, Jim, mother Joy, sister Beth, brother Timmy and her grandmother bring out the relationship between the family and April as well as between the rest of the family. Amid many stops to allow Joy, who is a cancer victim, to use the restroom and smoke dope, and doughnuts and bagels for the rest, a burial service for a hit animal and amid arguments, they arrive at the apartment. Things threaten to collapse at the dinner as arguments and counterarguments ensue. But in the end, Joy reconciles with her daughter and April realize the importance of family.
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Pieces in the Movie
A family is defined by the English dictionary as members of the household, close relatives or a social unit and which does not necessarily have to be blood related. Conventional wisdom dictates that family love is unconditional. However, things are not always that simple and one might find it hard to fit in his/her own family. It is also a reality that relationships take a lot of work to maintain including family, and in some occasions, you will find those involved dancing to different tunes. In the movie, we see a family that is struggling to repair a broken relationship with their estranged daughter, while at the same time dealing with their own personal conflicts. All this illustrates that in this family there are various pieces that are trying to come together as one unit, which is the family.
April is the first piece of the family. In the movie, she is portrayed as a typical family black sheep: tattooed, pierced, reddish-dyed hair, thrift shop clothes that spell rebellion, former drug addict and now living together with an Afro-American boyfriend. From the look of things, she is a piece of the family that the rest can live without as all she brings is distress. As a first child, she refers to herself as “the first pancake” which means she is the bad one that they throw out; she is not good enough to keep. In their drive to New York, a discussion about April brings hostility and her mother emphatically says that she does not have a good memory of April, all she remembers is a problem child. Joy even blames April for biting her breasts while breastfeeding when she was an infant.
April also set herself apart from the family since childhood. It seems she was on a mission to hurt her mother in particular, and the rest of the family as a whole. She simply does not talk to Joy, and Joy does not talk to her. Her wrongdoings against the family and her mother are spelled out by Joy who accuses her of a kitchen fire and also burning of her brother’s bangs with a lighter among others. In spite of all this, April cares about her family though she does not say it. Her effort to make the family dinner against all odds is a proof. After learning that her stove is broken, she knocks on her neighbors’ doors searching for a working oven and their generosity in order to make the dinner a success. She could have called it off, but she persevered.
Joy, April’s mother, is another important piece of this family and the movie. Joy, it seems set the path for April’s rebellion. In the car, she recounts April’s misbehaviors from infancy which shows her emotions towards her daughter that led to her being bad to attract attention. April’s biting her breasts while breastfeeding would be taken by any other logical person as an accident and no intended meanness, but not so for Joy. Her cancer also sets her as a piece of the family unit as she has distanced herself emotionally from the family unit. Her cancer is used by Beth to ruin the trip. She asks her as soon as they get into the car whether she feels any symptoms of her disease such as nausea and clammy hands. We also see Timmy sort of idolizing her mother as she refers to her as “mommy” despite the fact that he is eighteen years old. He also excitedly shows her boxes of film that he had the forethought to bring expecting some praise from her for his foresight, but unfortunately, he has forgotten the camera. Joy however realizes her mistake with April and wants to release the bad feelings as she tells Beth that she loves her even though she is making the mistake she made and wished she would make mistakes of her own, though she does not say, instead of trying to be a perfect child. Moreover, while fleeing from April’s apartment, Joy sees a mother with a 10-year old girl who argues with her and then abandons her in the restaurant, which makes her go back to reconcile with April.
Beth and Timmy
The family’s teenage children, Beth and Timmy, are a piece of the family as their roles are not given but chosen, and they strive not to upset the status quo. The two children are caught in the middle of their mother’s distress and hatred towards her elder child and strive to compensate for this to please their overbearing, emotionally distanced and dying mother. Beth does not want the family to visit April for the distress it is going to cause the family and tries to derail the trip by focusing on the fragile health of her mother throughout the trip. She asks her mother whether she feels a list of symptoms that come with cancer and the chemotherapy she is undergoing. She also acts as the perfect child, the good daughter to compensate for April’s rebellion. When her mother remembers something good about April, she is quick to correct her and point out that it was her, not April. She also makes a lot of effort to boost the family spirits of her mother in everything except when the subject of April arises. Timmy, on the other hand, worships his mother as seen in his calling her “mommy” despite the fact that he is eighteen. His photography hobby is also used to idolize his mother. In the photo album that Joys flips though, she is the primary subject as seen in photos of her topless before and after surgery. The two children, it seems, are at home because of their mother where Timmy chooses to please his mother and Beth feels a sense of duty towards her which they play not to be like April.