Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Cake

Jennifer Aniston hasn’t exactly had a respectable career of late. Sure, she’s hugely successful, but with recent roles in Horrible Bosses, Wanderlust, We’re The Millers and, well, Horrible Bosses 2, she isn’t exactly treating cinema as an art form. And that’s fine, some people are like that – for example, her co-star in Just Go With It; Adam Sandler, one of Satan’s cinematic minions – but I’ve always felt she has some talent hidden away somewhere. Directed by Daniel Barnz and out now on DVD only comes Cake, a film that proves that I was right about her talent all this time. It’s just a shame she’s wasted it on such a mediocre film. And no, it’s not a biopic of Mary Berry. 


After surviving a horrific car accident that took the life of her young son, Claire (Jennifer Aniston) has decided to push the world away. Struggling to live with injuries both physical and emotional left by the accident, Claire depends on her housekeeper, Silvana (Adriana Barraza), for almost constant support. Claire becomes obsessed with the suicide of Nina (Anna Kendrick), a fellow participant in group therapy, which leads her on a journey of self-discovery. The story is nothing special, as with most of these talent showcasing films. And if anything, it’s a little unoriginal in places – Claire sees the late Nina frequently as a ghostly vision, which feels rather contrived and unnecessary. Any excuse for Anna Kendrick to knock about for a bit onscreen, right? When we first learn of her character in the opening scene, she is just a photo and we’re told she’s dead. It was therefore somewhat predictable that she’d either not be dead after all, appear in flashbacks or *gasp* appear as a vision to Claire. But hey, nobody’s here for the story. They’re here to see if Aniston can act, or if she should just stick to mediocre comedies (as opposed to mediocre dramas). 


No need to worry, Jennifer Aniston is absolutely superb in Cake (I sound like I’m recommending a recipe to a cannibalistic baker) and truly owns the film. As the deeply troubled and wounded Claire, Aniston completely plays down her looks and removes any makeup for this surprisingly real and subtle performance. There are times when Adriana Barraza’s Silvana, the loveliest little Mexican housekeeper you could ever wish to have, shares the spotlight with Aniston as she too brings a great little performance to Cake. But this is Aniston’s film. However, other than these two ladies, there’s nothing else here to see. There’s nothing else to even bother discussing, really. Tonally the film doesn’t quite know what it wants. It doesn’t know how dark to get, how emotional to get, how moving to get. It unfortunately feels very amateur. On the whole, Cake looks and sounds like a straight-to-TV movie. Perhaps director Daniel Barnz just isn’t ready to jump into meaningful cinema like this yet – after all, this is the man that brought us the preposterously bad modern retelling of Beauty and the Beast; Beastly.


In conclusion, Cake is a film that is purely here to show Hollywood that Aniston can act after all. It feels like something she has personally knocked up in a couple of days to send to producers around the world with a note that says “Look, I’m not so bad after all. Please consider me for any future projects”. With the right film and team around her, Aniston could be on for an Oscar in the near future. Hell, she was nominated for a Golden Globe for this. But in a film like Cake, her effort feels wasted. Cake is nothing more than a showcase for Aniston’s newfound acting chops, and is otherwise a forgettable little 90 minutes. GLaDOS from Portal would love the title, though.

This Cake won’t be winning The Great Film Bake-Off any time soon, and earns 2/5.

★★☆☆☆

Sam Love


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