Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Run Time: 1 hour 42 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Adriana Barraza, Sam Worthington, Felicity Huffman, Chris Messina, Anna Kendrick
Written by Patrick Tobin (No Easy Way)
Directed by Daniel Barnz (Won't Back Down, Beastly, Phoebe in Wonderland)
Few critics or mainstream audience members had seen or heard of Cake (opening today), before the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) nominated Jennifer Aniston's performance at the Golden Globes earlier this month. As the film was slowly digested (no pun intended) over the past few weeks, Aniston's raw portrayal of a deeply scarred, suicidal, pill-popping "raving b***h" (her words, not mine), has been met with near unanimous praise from many more than just the HFPA. Despite Jennifer being snubbed by the Academy (many thought she would earn an Oscar nom), this really is a great career turn for the popular actress. Count me in as a big fan of Aniston and her performance in Cake.
As for the film itself? Well, she rises above it. We are first introduced to Aniston's character, Claire Bennett, as she impatiently sits through a suicide support group session. A recent member, Nina (Anna Kendrick), just killed herself by jumping off of a highway overpass, and the group's wholesome leader (Felicity Huffman) asks the group to reflect on the tragedy. "Way to go, Nina!" is what Claire had to say. Not quite the appropriate or the expected response I'd say.
We see from Claire's mental state and from the mysterious scars on her face that she's been through a lot. We also can see that she is in tremendous physical pain, which results in her drug addiction to pain-killers. Her house-maid (or caregiver?) Silvana (Adriana Barraza) tries to keep Claire in line and even though Claire appears to be a woman who can take care of herself, it's pretty obvious that Silvana is acting as somewhat of a guardian angel.
Out of curiosity, or perhaps infatuation, Claire tries to look into Nina's death. This leads her to Nina's widow, Roy (Sam Worthington), who comes to understand that they both share a similar bond.
If only the characters surrounding Claire were given some attention. Aniston creates a very memorable screen persona, but she exists in a shallow and neatly defined melodrama. Layer by layer, the roots of her depression are revealed to us, but seemingly only when the film wants to. Still, Claire is so complex and compelling that I felt drawn in...I think most audiences will care deeply about Claire.
There are several "average" films made that lack any real impact, but that feature great talents and/or performances. Cake is one of them. Aniston is clearly the draw, the cherry atop of an otherwise forgettable Cake.
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