Review: Cake

Ask anyone about Jennifer Aniston and they will without doubt name a comedy, whether it be Friends, Bruce Almighty, Office Space, Horrible Bosses or We’re the Millers, it is her specialty but this film proves it is certainly not her limitation. Attending a chronic pain support group Claire (Aniston) learns that another member (Anna Kendrick) has committed suicide which sets her on a path of determination to find out what caused her to do it, where and how, while taking a much needed look at her own life in the process.

I confess that at the time of the Oscars in 2015 hearing about Aniston being snubbed I hadn’t seen the film and didn’t think much about it but now it makes a lot more sense; I still can’t say I’m ultimately surprised that she didn’t receive that nomination but I would have chosen her over Reese Witherspoon in Wild. Her performance in this film is something that’s never really been seen in her career, the character of Claire is so destroyed that she is a complicated mess of emotion and Aniston plays her extremely well. It’s a depth and range that hasn’t been seen before from this actress and that carries the whole film on its back with ease, though supported by Kendrick as Nina’s ghost/hallucination (your choice), who adds a sharp edge and would be welcome to appear more throughout the film. Also supported by Sam Worthington as Nina’s widower, a surprisingly pleasant and funny character, her maid Silvana (Adriana Barraza) with decent but fairly cliched work and support group leader Annette (Felicity Huffman) in a fairly minimal effort necessary performance.

This is one of a never ending list of stories with a slow reveal, where vital information to the plot and understanding of its protagonist is left for the audience to figure out as you go along, it’s a decent enough plot device but I’m not certain how much it actually adds to the film as it isn’t inherently difficult to figure out. It’s focused on the idea of being knocked down and struggling to find a reason to pick yourself back up, which is explored to a more intimate extent, completely revolving around Claire which works quite well in the sense of giving the audience a sincere connection to the character before even giving you many details about her; whether it’s out of pity or empathy is a matter of perspective. The film also doesn’t fall into the trap of lengthening out its scenes too much and leaving overly thoughtful pauses, it moves well at a good pace without rushing through each moment and manages to not lose its audience with a decent running time of an hour and fourty minutes.

Cake didn’t really receive much a reception when it came out, and it seems as though the DVD release has gone fairly unnoticed, but I’m hoping that more people have seen this film than I’m assuming because it is worth it. There are films covering all sorts of illnesses and afflictions, and some of them less honest than others, but this takes a pretty decent look at someone dealing with an issue that can’t be solved without a lot of work and that maybe the hardest part is willing yourself to want to do that work. It’s a great performance from Aniston and some solid supporting acting, understated but with big impact.

Verdict: 7/10

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