Written by: Patrick Tobin
Directed by: Daniel Barnz
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Sam Worthington, Anna Kendrick, Adrianna Barraza
Story: Fascinated and haunted by her suicide, Claire befriends the widowed husband of a woman from her chronic pain support group.
Jennifer Aniston is here to let us know that she is not simply a comedic actress. From time to time this does happen: a traditionally comedic actor will take on a role that is much more dramatic, much more complex. Often it pays off, and almost just as often it doesn’t. For Aniston, she strikes gold.
‘Cake’ is not a dessert. It is a rich and savoury main course which will leave you feeling full. This is an intense and moving exploration of the way in which we can forgive and move on from tragedy in our lives. For Aniston’s character Claire, she has suffered a tragedy which has taken everything she has from her: everything but her mother figure which she finds in her hired help Silvana. The empathy that Adrianna Barraza brings to this role is mature and measured. She plays off Aniston extremely well, and between the two of them there is some sort of familial electricity. We are assured through Silvana’s presence that Claire is always going to be OK – she is always going to get by. The beauty in this is that with Aniston’s performance, we want Claire to do more than get by. We want her to thrive.
Aniston comes into this role with a sense of wisdom and intense vulnerability that you would be hard pressed to find in many other actresses. When watching ‘Cake’, it is clear that she has approached this role with both passion and caution, and not too much of either.
The screenplay is finely put together and incredibly well paced. When watching this we have to be prepared for heaviness and deep character study. If this is not the type of movie for you, then do not watch it. Many things are explored but some are left unsaid: this is a fine quality in a script and Patrick Tobin should be commended.
One is tempted to say that ‘Cake’ is worth watching for Aniston alone, however strong supporting roles from Adriana Barraza, Sam Worthington and particularly Felicity Huffman it would feel unfair to say. Her role is small, but Huffman becomes an integral part of this story, providing a certain optimism that we could perhaps lack at times when trying to process Claire’s journey.
Mature and understated, Cake might just be one of the most emotionally intelligent films you watch this year.