Brief Thoughts: Cake (Movie Review)

I really enjoy putting my reviews together.  I honestly wish I could delve deeper into certain movies, but alas, I get incredibly busy and can sometimes only deal with movies to a briefer extent than I would prefer.  This is why I write these occasional "Brief Thoughts" posts on movies I have seen, as I want to at least offer some of my own perspective on them.  They may not be as polished, but I can at least get my opinions out there.  This brief thought is a review of the film Cake, starring Jennifer Aniston.

Cake: 2 1/2 out of 5

This is the story of Claire (Jennifer Aniston), a woman suffering from chronic-pain and dealing with a heavy loss, who has current and new relationships with those around her, including her housekeeper, Silvana (Adriana Barraza) and Roy (Sam Worthington), the widower of a young woman (Anna Kendrick) who committed suicide.  Claire is not the most pleasant person to be around, but of course that can be the result of having pain and personal demons that need to be dealt with.

Cake is the kind of typical arthouse melodrama that is supposed to make you feel more for it because one may have read facts such as "Jennifer Aniston does not wear any makeup in the film at all."  It is the type of thing where a performance from an actress is suddenly considered 'brave' when she is really just doing a variation of what she has mostly done in many of her other film roles that do not have 'Bosses' in the title (say what you will about those films, but that's a better example of 'brave').  This does not take away from the quality of Aniston's work in this film, as it far outshines what director Daniel Barnz and writer Patrick Tobin seem to be capable of in this feature.

Typically, I am fairly indifferent to what Jennifer Aniston has to offer as an actress (and the fact that her Friends co-star Lisa Kudrow was absolutely terrific on the recent comeback of The Comeback on HBO continues to make me sigh at the lack of more Kudrow in movies), but to give credit where credit is due, Aniston makes the most of the role of Claire, which is only different from the other roles she has played by having her remain an irritating and off-putting presence to almost everyone around her for the majority of the film.  That's a little mean, but Claire is a little mean and while the film has real issues with making its subject matter more interesting, at least Anniston is able to bring some wit to the role of a character that is all over the place.

Really, the acting, in general, is not an issue.  Barraza is the most worthwhile performance here, even given how typical it may be for an american film to place her in the role of the Mexican housekeeper that says all the right things, while dealing with the grieving white lady.  Plenty of credit goes to Sam Worthington as well, who continues to show how effective he can be in his natural accent.  The real issues are at the hands of the filmmakers.  Bloated story beats and dialogue that is consistently bland, save for times when the cast is allowed to show their chemistry with each other, does not help things out.  Couple that with aimless direction that suggests we should be content with watching this simple character study and assume it is Oscar-worthy, because of the various filters that appear during some key scenes involving Claire's suffering/thoughts, and you have a film that wants to be more than it is.

For anyone that needs proof that Aniston can act, there are other movies that are better and have been out for years which do that (The Good Girl is an obvious pick, but plenty of the supposed 'silly rom comes' have her providing strong work).  If you need a performance that has seemed to convince many that this is the first time she is branching out into something completely new and surely the most revelatory transformation of 2014, take a breath.  Cake is a watchable, low-key drama, but nothing special, and actually hampered by the fact that the acting on display is better than the material, even if the acting simply makes it a decent set of performances in a movie that is not up to the challenge.


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