Starring Jennifer Aniston, Adriana Barraza, Sam Worthington, Anna Kendrick, Felicity Huffman, William H. Macy, Chris Messina, Lucy Punch
The only reason Cake is even in the Oscar conversation is the fact that for only the second time in her career, Jennifer Aniston has stepped back towards the dark indie genre like she did back in 2002 with The Good Girl. Cake is a messy film, both with the characters we are watching and the way the film is assembled. Aniston gives a provoked performance; it’s based nearly entirely on her ability to showcase the character's chronic physical and mental pain. This character doesn’t have a lot of depth and the film allows these people to exist on screen without ever really moving towards a point of reference or a solid manifestation. The only real positive element to presenting a story like this is the fact that we have no idea where it will end up.
Highly medicated on Percocet and oxycodone, Claire (Aniston) attends a doctor recommended support group; one of the members, Nina (Kendrick), has just committed suicide. After a snarky comment about the death during role playing, it’s suggested that Claire not attend anymore. Most of her days are spent lying flat due to the damage she has suffered to her back and the pins in her legs. Scars cover her face and the memory of what she has lost, including her husband (Messina) who she refuses to see, are drowned out by booze and more pills. Unable to get the image of Nina jumping off the interstate out of her mind, she visits widower Roy (Worthington), who is barely able to keep himself and his little boy pushing forward.
Feels like a cheap, straight to DVD that is only garnering awards attention because voters are desperate to find alternative females to nominate.
When dealing with awards season, one of the first things I look for in a performance film is what scene could be a potential clip for the actor in consideration. Aniston has quite a few, and a lot more screen time than Hilary Swank (The Homesman), and she is more interesting to watch than Marion Cotillard (Two Days One Night). Cake as a film, however, feels like a cheap, straight to DVD that is only garnering awards attention because voters are desperate to find alternative females to nominate. With a SAG and Golden Globe nomination, Cake could lead Aniston to an Oscar nomination, but it would be the weakest of the five nominees.
The scenes Aniston shares with Oscar nominee Barraza (Babel) are among the best in the film. Their interesting relationship carries more weight than the pill popping hallucinations Claire is having with Nina’s ghost. The three scenes with Oscar nominee Huffman (Transamerica) have almost nothing to do with the thin plot that can be summed up as 'a suicide in a support group gives another woman a reason to live'. The script by Patrick Tobin feels uninspired and jumps around so much it feels like they just wrote a handful of characters to add more famous faces in the film.
For the second time, Aniston steps out of the easy stuff and into something showcasing her range.