Cake is a very dark drama starring Jennifer Aniston as Claire Simmons, a woman with cynical, acerbic wit who unapologetically feels no empathy for a woman who committed suicide by jumping off a bridge. After this cold revelation to the more sympathetic group members, she is asked not to return to the chronic pain support group. Off-putting but refreshing to hear such honesty after a tragedy gives us insight into Claire’s troubled world. Claire suffers intense chronic pain and is a pill-popping, angry, lonely woman, but you can’t help but root for her early in the film.
She’s aided by Silvana, her Mexican, immigrant housekeeper (Adriana Barraza) who is clearly devoted to Claire, caring for her with kindness and loyalty even when Claire has outbursts of impatience and anger. Silvana, probably Claire’s only friend, never wavers understanding that it’s the pain causing her to act like that. At times Claire surprises us with a gentleness and understanding when it’s least expected. Claire asks Silvana to drive her to Mexico so that she can get more painkillers. While having lunch Silvana runs into some old friends and we can sense her embarrassment of being a housekeeper. Claire picks up on this and excuses herself to secretly pay for the lunch but makes it look like Silvana took her to lunch, paid for it and then asks her if she still has some shopping to do. This scene tells us that deep down Claire is a sensitive and kind person, and appreciates Silvana more than we realize. We begin to excuse her irritability and secretly wish that her pain will subside.
The movie shifts when Claire starts to have hallucinations and dreams of Nina (Anna Kendrick), the woman who jumped off the bridge. This triggers her obsession to want to know more about her and why she jumped. Under subterfuge she goes to visit Nina’s home and meets her husband, Roy (Sam Worthington) and befriends him and his young son. As dowdy, slightly scarred and cynical Claire is, the humor, cleverness and beauty of Aniston still shines through. Aniston’s spark is evident and makes this dark comedy palatable and fun to watch despite the tragic storylines.
There are very strong performances from the supporting characters played by Felicity Huffman, William H. Macy and Anna Kendrick. Baranz handles this film about addiction, compulsion, suicide and pain with an uneasy but effective sense of humor which makes this film a very dark comedy. You wince as Aniston plays the suffering Claire so truthfully and you cheer as you witness her determination to live a somewhat normal existence. Cake becomes a delicious symbol of survival.
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Sam Worthington, Adriana Barraza
Director: Daniel Barnz
Company: Cinelou Films
Now Showing: Limited In Theatres
MPAA Rating: R (substance abuse, language)