Dealing with sudden, traumatic loss leaves internal scars that that may never heal, but can at least become more manageable with the progression of time.

by Rob Rector

But imagine if that loss was compounded by chronic pain that is a searing reminder every waking moment of the day? Such is the life of Claire, Jennifer Aniston’s character in Cake, a film that has made enough ripples since it’s debut at the Toronto Film Festival last year that carried its star to Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations. She was sleighted by the Oscars, and her performance should have most certainly been included (Rosamund Pike was great in Gone Girl, but I’m not so sure it should be considered one of the best performances of the year).

Directed by
Daniel Barnz
Jennifer Aniston, Adriana Barraza, Anna Kendrick
Release Date
23 January 2015
Rob’s Grade: B-

Cake is film worth seeing for Aniston’s performance as the bitter, battered Claire, as she not only de-glams herself (still looking amazing), but digs under the scarred skin of her character to provide us with a performance we have not seen from her since 2002’s The Good Girl.

One only wishes that the rest of the film lived up to her level of commitment.

There’s certainly nothing “bad” about Cake, it’s merely that it does not offer us much that we have not seen before and, aside from the frequent f-bombs dropped by Aniston, it might easily find a home on Lifetime Network.

We are introduced to Aniston’s Claire at a support group for women dealing with chronic pain, where it is pointedly revealed that she is not one who clamors for our (or anyone else’s) pity. She’s none too fond of the hushed NPR-quality tones of the leader (played in a throwaway role by the rarely used Felicity Huffman), and her external scars and stilted movements hide even deeper pains left behind by a car accident that claimed the life of her young son and later demolished her marriage.

The only rock in her stormy emotional port is her saintly caretaker Silvana (played by Adriana Barazza in the film’s other notable performance), who suffers the verbal slings from her employer while trying to look past the alcohol- and pill-fueled facade Claire erects daily.

Claire finds an odd connection with a former support-group member Nina (played by Anna Kendrick), who committed suicide but manages to swing by to chat with our protagonist when she is in a hazy stupor. Claire decides to give her rudderless days importance by digging deeper into Nina’s life, stopping by her home to meet the husband and child she left behind. Roy (played by Sam Worthington, in a rather one-note performance) is equally angry at life, and the two connect in the most conventional, expected ways possible.

This is where “Cake” shifts from what may have been a deeper character study to a more standard-issue melodrama. The relationship between Claire and Silvana is far more electric and interesting than anyone else on screen, proven by an amusing, lengthy segment in which the two head down to Mexico for stash of illegal painkillers. One wishes director Daniel Barnz had the courage to keep his camera between these two ladies instead of taking the more conventional route of adding a splash of romance into the mix.

For it is their complex, combatative, compassionate tug-of-war that gives Cake its true icing.