This Sundance darling stars Katie Holmes as April -- outfitted in heavy black eyeliner, dyed hair, and rebellious biker boots -- as a black sheep who invites her estranged family over for Thanksgiving dinner. As her family reluctantly makes their way out from the suburbs to New York City, the movie's quirky stabs at humor are tinged with melancholy as it is discovered that the mother Joy (Patricia Clarkson) is dying of cancer, and this meal might very well be the last time the entire family would be together. (Now your Thanksgiving doesn't seem that bad, does it?)
In her attempt to cook up an ideal Thanksgiving dinner, April is faced with an uncooperative turkey and a nonworking stove, which sends her knocking on the doors of her fellow Lower East Side building tenants for help (and thereby introducing us to the requisite motley crew of NYC neighbors). And in the packed station wagon on the way to Manhattan, April's family tries desperately to put on a sunny face in the face of their ailing mother.
The movie also stars Oliver Platt as the family patriarch, Jim, Alison Pill as resentful younger sister Beth, Derek Luke as April's benevolent boyfriend Bobby, and Sean Hayes as an eccentric neighbor. (Also, early '00s blast from the past: 'Thong Song' SisQo also makes a brief appearance as Bobby's well-outfitted pal.)
Clarkson's portrayal of Joy is particularly highlighted and realized, perhaps because Hedges (the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of 'About a Boy') wrote this movie as a tribute to his own mother, who had recently passed away. And while some of the characters and situations seem a little contrived, the underlying emotions ring true: When the family finally comes together at the end -- well, we defy anyone with a heart not to be touched.
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