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Cake (Jennifer Aniston) - DVD Review

Cake

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

JENNIFER Aniston finally delivers a dramatic performance of note in Daniel Barnz’s Cake, a so-so examination of grief, addiction and pain that sometimes feels like it’s trying too hard to manipulate your emotions.

Aniston plays Claire Simmons, a grieving mother who lost her child in a car crash that has also left her suffering with chronic back pain. After becoming obsessed by the suicide of a woman named Nina (Anna Kendrick) in her pain support group, Claire then starts to hallucinate seeing Nina’s ghost and embarks upon a quest to find Nina’s husband (Sam Worthington) so that she can start to make sense of her own life once again.

Barnz’s film starts out as a black comedy that puts Simmons’ acerbic wit front and centre and, early on, drags its central character into some very dark places as she struggles to cope with both the pain that impedes her everyday life (and sleep) as well as the sustained grief of losing a child.

But once Claire is invited to start turning things around for herself, the film begins to feel a lot less interesting and a lot more clichéd. The various relationships that form in the movie too often feel like plot devices, while the sentiment begins to feel contrived.

Aniston remains terrific throughout, however, even when being difficult to like. Physically, she expertly projects the debilitating effect of her condition on both her body and her mind, while she wears her sorrow and her anger in equally impressive fashion. It’s a committed performance that was certainly more deserving of awards recognition than it got.

Worthington, too, is good value as Nina’s grieving husband, even if his character feels poorly written, while there’s eye-catching support from Adriana Barraza as Claire’s long-suffering maid and carer (the true heart of the movie).

But too often Patrick Tobin’s script struggles to convince as being emotionally authentic and pales by comparison to other grief-based films such as Rabbit Hole, which earned your tears much more effectively. It also fails to make the most of some of its more promising scenes, such as the arrival of William H Macy’s forgiveness seeker.

Hence, while Cake is definitely worth seeing for the strength of Aniston’s performance (and the support of Barraza), it lacks the staying power of some of the better movies of its type. The hope is that Aniston won’t be deterred from doing more of this kind of thing.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 102mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: June 29, 2015