Not quite the familiar home-for-the-holidays genre of a dysfunctional family, this one has a twist.   April is a late-teen "problem" daughter who has run away to New York City where she lives with her boyfriend, Bobby (Derek Luke).  April, played by a grungy, pigtailed, and probably tattooed Katie Holmes, has invited her parents, siblings, and grandmother to Thanksgiving dinner.  This reunion, we gather, is the first since April left home.  The family is coming to her lower East Side tenement, a situation that bristles with possibilities.  

Moving back and forth from April's low rent apartment to tension in the crowded car as it moves from a scenic suburb to cityscape, viewers are able to watch both April's unskilled efforts as she struggles with the slippery turkey, a can of cranberry sauce, crepe paper decorations, a broken oven, etc. and an inexplicable drama slowly unfolding in the crowded car.  In spite of crisis situations in both settings, the separate family members do get together for a dinner that neither could have planned. 


Patricia Clarkson's performance as Joy, a mother and woman with cancer--an unmentioned condition--provides rich instruction about the disruptive impact of illness on a family.  Until viewers understand the nature of her unspoken disease, her husband (Oliver Platt), indeed the entire family, appear strangely patient with Joy's bizarre mood swings, weird behaviors, and joyless harangues about the estranged child they are about to visit. With exception of an appropriately named grandmother, Dottie, individual family members have distinct responses to shared but unexpressed concerns and fears. 

April, living apart, but aware of her mother's sickness, seems focused on her relationship with Bobby and the tasks associated with the dinner she struggles to prepare.  When her stove fails to ignite, the desperate and generally inept young cook seeks help from other residents in her building and, in doing so, makes surprising discoveries about families, including her own.   


Peter Hedges, who wrote the screenplay, also wrote What's Eating Gilbert Grape (see annotation); he shoots this film in digital video.

Primary Source

MGM/United Artists Home Video