Jennifer Aniston is the frosting on this stale Cake.
Giving a Golden Globe nominated performance, Aniston plays Claire Bennett, a woman living with chronic pain, a constant reminder of a horrific accident that forever changed her life. Claire battles this affliction with a heavy addiction to pain medication and by attending a local support group. In addition to her own demons, Claire also struggles to accept the dissolution of her marriage, as well as attempting understand the suicide of a group member, Nina (Anna Kendrick) that begins to visit her in dreams. The latter leads her to connect to the widow, Roy (Sam Worthington), which collectively begins to put an new spin on her already spiraling life. Along for the ride is Claire’s hired help, Silvana (Adriana Barraza).
We’ve seen plenty of addition-based films over the years, but they traditionally have a bit of flair to go along with them. Films like Requiem for a Dream, Trainspotting, and even The Wolf of Wall Street come to mind, but in the case of Cake, we not only have a focus on a female addict, but a rather subdued view. It’s a really interesting approach to this kind of story, and Aniston rolls with the punches wonderfully, depicting pain, numbness, and all forms of withdrawal.
Unfortunately the unique take on the junkie tale, and Aniston’s performance, are really the only standouts in Cake. The progression of the story really isn’t very engaging, nor are many of the moments with Aniston. While it’s hard to deny her skill in handling every scene, as a viewer I could only take watching her sweat and wriggle in pain in so many situations – lying in bed, riding in a car, sitting at a doctors, sitting in her group, etc. I found it similar to the execution of Wild starring Reese Witherspoon – the story is interesting and the acting phenomenal, yet it’s all put together in a fashion that ends up predictable and boring.
It’s really a shame, because of the ingredients of Cake are pretty solid. Worthington, Kendrick, and Chris Messina provide meaty supporting roles, with additional bit parts coming from William H. Macy and Felicity Huffman. The strongest supporting role comes from Adriana Barraza as Silvana, the truly better half to Aniston’s character throughout the film. She grounds the character in reality, of a both a woman desperate to excel at her job, as well as help reshape her boss’ life. The cinematography does a few interesting things throughout the feature, and the soundtrack/score is interesting and fits well within the atmosphere of the film.
Cake is really the perfect title for this film. It looks good, takes pretty good, but in the end, it really isn’t good for you. There’s plenty to like in Cake, but as a finished product, it has a limited range that is taken advantage of, which is a shame given the unique take on a junkie flick.