Thursday, February 5, 2015

[Review] Cake

The vague and minimally titled Cake finds Jennifer Aniston engaging in a heavily dramatic role. The performance is impressive, but the surrounding elements are mixed and weirdly lethargic.

Claire (Aniston) is cynical and sarcastic. She lost her only child during a tragic car accident, which has left her with chronic pain and depression (and a lot of pill-popping, which results in several hallucinatory scenes). After a woman (played by Anna Kendrick) from her support group commits suicide, Claire becomes obsessed with the situation and attempts to make sense of everything.

Cake can never seem to find a proper or consistent tone, as it meanders around an awkward line of black comedy, melodrama, road trip antics, and tragedy. The pieces just don't fit very well. The leisurely pacing drifts along, and the narrative never demonstrates a firm grasp from one scene to the next. It's less of a conventional story and more of a slice-of-life portrait or slight character study, which is fine in some circumstances, but it comes off as sketchy and underwhelming here. 

Aniston is the least Aniston-like we've ever seen, and she displays some serious range here. But it turns out that the performance is really the only thing this film has going for it (which might be why Aniston didn't appear in Oscar selections). And rather than her fully rising above the material, the material mostly brings her down with it. This trial of grief only cuts the surface.


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