****THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ZERO SPOILERS!!! THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!!!****
Cake, directed by Daniel Barnz and written by Patrick Tobin, stars Jennifer Aniston as Claire Bennett, a woman struggling with chronic physical and emotional pain. The film also features Sam Worthington, Anna Kendrick and Adriana Baraza in supporting roles.
The film follows the trials and tribulations Claire encounters as she seeks to quell her physical pain with ill-gotten pain meds, and her emotional pain with anything she can think of, whether it be sleeping with the pool boy or not sleeping with Sam Worthington.
Cake is the type of film designed to try and win awards. Recently, there has been a heavy marketing push for Jennifer Aniston to receive various acting awards for her performance. In fact, I received a DVD from the producers just the other day, encouraging me to vote for Aniston for a best actress Screen Actors Guild award. They were cutting it pretty close as the voting ends this coming Friday. Regardless of that, the film is nowhere near worthy of awards attention, and neither is Aniston's performance.
Jennifer Aniston tries to sully herself up as Claire Bennett, by not being so beautiful (no easy task), and covering herself in scars and wearing frumpy clothes. Sadly though, Aniston never fully commits to the character's internals, the emotional and psychological, only her externals, her appearance, which makes the performance feel manufactured, disingenuous and ultimately hollow. I like Jennifer Aniston. I think she is charming, gorgeous and her presence in popular culture is greatly appreciated, but the cold hard reality is that Aniston, at her very best, is nothing more than an average actress. That is not to diminish her great work and success on Friends. She was fantastic on Friends, but her artistic growth seems to have been stunted by her overwhelming success on that iconic show. I know it isn't fair, but it is true, that Friends is the albatross around Aniston's acting neck and she is unable to liberate herself from it. She cannot escape the clutches of Rachel Green, the seminal character she so excelled at, maybe because that portrayal was so close to who she really was, or maybe because she just got Rachel Green so ingrained into her artists self, that it is all she is able to do, it has become her default setting, which is not uncommon when you play the same character for a decade. In Cake, Aniston's Claire Bennett is not a unique and original creation, it is Rachel Green with a bad back and a pill habit.
Cake fails to be compelling not just because the performance at it's center isn't riveting, it has other major problems as well. The film falls flat in numerous areas, story and the characters, for instance, feel so contrived and forced, that the movie is never able to gather any dramatic momentum, and thus lurches from one scene to the next without any emotional coherence. The director, Daniel Barnz, can't seem to make up his mind as to what Cake is, is it a dark character study of a woman spiraling into the abyss, or is it a dramedy about a smart-alecky lady who sasses her way to healing? By not choosing one, Barnz chooses neither, and the film staggers around looking for something to grasp onto, but the script, the directing and the acting are never strong enough to provide a stable ground for it to stand on.
In conclusion, Cake is a missed opportunity for everyone involved. The film seems to want to please everyone and ended up not pleasing anyone. So, to you gentle reader, I do declare…you can have your Cake…and eat mine too, because I sure as hell don't want it.
FOR REVIEWS OF OTHER FILMS RELEASED DURING THE HOLIDAY SEASON, PLEASE CLICK ON THESE LINKS TO THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING , WHIPLASH , BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE) , FOXCATCHER , WILD , AMERICAN SNIPER , A MOST VIOLENT YEAR , THE IMITATION GAME , NIGHTCRAWLER , STILL ALICE , INHERENT VICE , SELMA , MR. TURNER .