TIFF 2014: Cake Review

In a dramatic turn Jennifer Aniston plays Claire, a surly chronic-pain sufferer dealing with the pieces of her broken life. After a fellow member of her support group (Anna Kendrick) commits suicide Claire becomes intrigued by the woman’s life and choices. She barrels her way into an unlikely friendship with the woman’s husband (Sam Worthington) and begins to learn another way to live.  KO6788__cake_02_o4__8208865__1406599587

Of the many films I chanced to see at TIFF 2014 this was one about which I was most excited, and I was not let down at all. Jennifer Aniston has taken on a very challenging role, managing to make a spiteful character like Claire human, lashing out like a wounded animal rather than just being a bitch. Dealing with her own personal tragedies is made easier by focusing on the pain of others, and she slowly learns how to drop her prickly exterior. The story is not the most revolutionary, but it is an emotional walk in another’s shoes and a powerful experience.

If there was any misstep in my opinion it would be the casting of Kendrick as Nina. As a posthumous character she represents Claire’s ego as well as id, and it could have been a meaty role. But Kendrick was somewhat forgettable, and it was a tiny bit of disappointment in an otherwise satisfying experience. Big props however go to Adrianna Barraza who played Claire’s housekeeper Silvana. Through body language and glances alone she is able to convey years of history between her character and Claire’s, giving you insight into why a woman would continue to work with such a difficult person. The answer is that they clearly care deeply for each other, despite the clash in personalities.

Buzz around this film will likely centre on Aniston “uglyfying” herself, with the stringy hair and lack of makeup. But for me it is the complete transformation of her body language, her voice, everything about her attitude. While I have not experienced chronic pain I was still able to feel the pain that Claire is exhibiting, with every moment and every line delivered barely concealing what must be unimaginable agony. I had sympathy pains just watching her sit in a chair.

I feel that a lot of people will dismiss this film because they will discount Aniston in a dramatic role, which is a shame. Perhaps not quite on the same level, but people had a similar reaction to Heath Ledger’s casting as the Joker, which of course turned out amazing. I’d had every confidence in Ledger, and was similarly sure that Aniston would do well in this new role. At the moment there is no official US release date on IMDb, though it is currently attached to boutique Canadian distributor D Films.  I’ve been talking this film up to everyone I know and I hope that it will eventually see a full release so that Aniston will get the recognition she deserves.

 

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