Sunday 29 April 2018

Movie Review: Cake (2014)

A psychological drama, Cake features a strong Jennifer Aniston performance but is too slow to shift gears away from the doldrums of grief.

Claire (Aniston) is suffering from enormous physical pain and scars as well as emotional stress further to a devastating car accident. She is also dealing with the suicide of Nina (Anna Kendrick), a member of her support group, with Nina's ghost making frequent appearances to communicate.

Claire has kicked her husband Jason (Chris Messina) out of the house, and because she refuses to sit upright in any car, she leans heavily on housekeeper Silvana (Adriana Barraza) for transportation. Claire manages the chronic pain through large amounts of painkillers provided by her doctor Annette (Felicity Huffman). Through the haze of depression and discomfort she connects with Nina's angry husband Roy (Sam Worthington), and they start an awkward relationship.

Directed by Daniel Barnz, Cake zooms in on one individual character in a state of crisis. The film offers an intriguing enough premise, exploring in depth the iron grip brought forth by excruciating pain, discomfort, physical scarring, and calamitous emotional loss. The film deserves credit for portraying Claire as more than a victim deserving of sympathy. She is also now enraged, frustrated, insensitive and resorting to pressure and lies to get what she wants.

But beyond the prevalent motif, Cake stalls. Barnz and writer Patrick Tobin appear content to allow Claire to spin endlessly within the locked box she finds herself in, and for too long the film revisits the same misery-propelled themes, from the macabre appeal of Nina's exit to Claire's self-justified attitude of insolence and the ease with which she uses others to try and fill the vacuum inside.

By the time the film finally creaks forward and attempts to evolve the narrative past the thick dollops of grief, it's too late, and the metaphors related to baking cakes for others and the last minute introduction of a brief houseguest are clumsy and underdeveloped ideas.

Jennifer Aniston again proves that she can excel in drama, and offers a deglamorized role filled with a curtain of darkness behind her eyes, as Claire silently rages against a life-altering catastrophe. Adriana Barraza emerges as the most interesting secondary character, the housekeeper taking the brunt of Claire's interrupted life and search for others to lean on.

Cake is not without merits, but is no better than half-baked.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

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