It’s the movie that awards season had been talking about, but unfortunately not for the subject material but for a powerful performance by Rachel from Friends.
Claire Bennett (Anniston) is a woman suffering from chronic pain, helped only by her carer Silvana (Adriana Barraza) as she tries to lessen the effects of her condition with an overly eager need for strong painkillers and a cranky personality. However, when the death of a friend in her support group, Nina (Anna Kendrick) begins to open up old wounds, she tries to find comfort in Nina’s husband (Sam Worthington)
In a similar vein to Still Alice, Cake is a shining vehicle for its lead actress. But unlike the ever reliable Julianne Moore, Jennifer Aniston really surprises and sheds the safe, good girl image to deliver a raw, unfortgettable performance that not only brings empathy to a grouchy character but is also breathtaking in the way she portrays the much darker scenes.
Aniston gives us a woman with a quiet strength, who begins to unravel during the course of the movie in a way that’s not delivered in an Oscar-bait scenery chewing style, although I agree with so many critics in that she was completely and totally robbed of an Academy Award nomination.
Cake would be nothing if it wasn’t for the great chemistry of Aniston and Barraza, who have a wonderful and magnetic presence that is both haunting and uplifting to watch, it quickly becomes the anchor of not only Claire’s life but also the life of the film itself. Anna Kendrick, while only appearing here and there, is a scene stealer who brings so much depth to the few lines she has, depth which becomes pivotal to the bigger and psychological tones of the story.
However, the script tends to lose its momentum during the second act and seems to slowly plod along without many developments or a steady pace to keep you hooked into what’s going to happen next, instead relying on very well written comedic quips to get us through. Those, along with a mumbling and unlikeable performance by Sam Worthington are the biggest disappointments. While the relationship between Aniston and Worthington’s characters is refreshing to see on-screen, the latter doesn’t seem to be invested in what his character needs to convey and instead phones in a shaky performance during his most emotive scene.
The editing of Cake features way too many quick cuts which are almost as if a film student has been let loose on the software for the very first time. In terms of production, the sound mixing is something that needs to be paid attention to, the way sounds are used to convey a great sense of emotion and putting the viewer into the mind and situation of Claire provides a much needed gravitas and a symbolic and personal ending to the film managed to weave a story tightly together.
Overall, while the story deserved better from some of the directorial decisions and qualities of Cake, the film successfully delivers a ground breaking lead performance from Jen puts her heart and soul into it and will hopefully be a McConaughey-style career changing role.