Though shot for less than $200,000 (probably one-eighth of what Quentin Tarantino spent on fake blood alone for Kill Bill Vol. 1), this perceptive comedy about a dysfunctional family's wacky attempt at a Thanksgiving meal demonstrates that if a filmmaker can create characters and a story that draw you in, a movie's look becomes decidedly secondary.
Director-writer Peter Hedges (who wrote 1993's What's Eating Gilbert Grape) toggles between bohemian April's (Holmes) inept efforts at whipping up a holiday meal in her grungy Manhattan digs and the comic adventures of her family while they are driving in from the suburbs. Adding poignancy, April's mother (Clarkson), from whom she has long been estranged, is dying of cancer. Both know this is their last chance to connect before it's too late.
Holmes and castmates are swell, but Clarkson is sublime. She conveys the dark humor and heartbreak of one who knows only too well that her time is near. (PG-13)