Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cake: Movie Review

A journey of physical and emotional pain meanders to nowhere.

Cake stars Jennifer Aniston as Claire, a woman suffering from chronic pain with an attitude that is sure to keep everyone else at bay. It's Claire's story and Aniston imbibes her with enough humanity that we care to stick with her even if everyone else can't. It's not Claire's visible scars, or her caustic demeanor, or the fact that she's a self-described bitch, but eventually the film loses its point on what it wants to have happen to Claire, and there's nowhere for us to go. 2014

Directed by: Daniel Barnz

Screenplay by: Patrick Tobin

Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Adriana Barraza

The beginning was pretty good. The dark comedy genre comes through in Claire's dealings with a chronic pain support group, where she approaches everything in life with nihilistic humour, including her logistical approach to the suicide of a former member. The others don't handle that very well because they just want to forgive Nina (Anna Kendrick) and move on. But Claire becomes quite interested in the details of Nina's death and the life she led before it.

This leads Claire to meeting Nina's husband, Roy (Sam Worthington). Roy is unsurprisingly suffering from depression, sees through Claire's lies, but it doesn't matter because they're both hurting in a similar way and can form a mutually beneficial bond. However, with Roy comes Nina's ghost. Clearly Claire's pain is not just physical but emotional as well. Nina's not a threatening ghost, but Claire does need to figure out why she's here.

At this point, we have a bit of a plot (progression of Claire's relationship with Nina's ghost and Nina's husband), but even better we have remnants of Claire's former life, and personal assumptions that we can make about what exactly Claire is yearning for. The bits and pieces of the type of life Claire used to lead was much more interesting when we had to fill in all the blanks, but they must not have trusted the audience much because they then had to spell it out entirely. That time could have been better served getting to a point in Claire's current life.

Claire just needs to get to some kind of mental stabilization. In life that can be very anti-climactic, but in a movie, something tangible would really help if her final state can't really be identified. The movie is no longer about what it seemed to be about. Claire's character arc was just too subtle and everybody else remained on the periphery. Claire's journey in Cake becomes much less interesting than where it began.

Similar Titles:

Wild (2014) - A simple and beautiful journey through the wilds of California and the mind.

Take Care (2014) - Taking their sweet time to get to a charming romantic comedy.