"Cake is an acrimonious story with a central protagonist who eschews sympathy"
Pain is etched throughout every frame of Daniel Barnz’s bitterly acerbic indie dramedy Cake.
This anti-aesthetic vehicle for the habitual rom-com veteran Jennifer Aniston, wince-inducingly showcases her most powerful performance in years. Claire Bennett (Aniston) is concealed in a permanent pill prescription haze, struggling to deal with the perpetual emotional and physical pain that governs every moment of her waking life.
Anger seeps out of Claire’s very pores which is first evident at her chronic pain support group, repeatedly rolling her eyes whilst sarcastically dismissing group leader Annette’s (a barely recognisable Felicity Huffman) sickeningly syrupy approach to therapy.
Most of Claire’s relationships and human contact have virtually disintegrated, leaving a self-destructing cycle of self-loathing. The affecting suicide of fellow group member Nina (Anna Kendrick) is the start of a new fixation for Claire who is intent on gaining as much insight into the death of a woman she barely knew, which includes continuously gate crashing the home of Nina’s grieving widower Roy (Sam Worthington). Teetering on the edge of both recovery and self-induced death, Claire’s housekeeper/carer Silvana (the subtly charismatic Adriana Barraza) is a shining beacon of devotion, who just about manages to keep her employer grounded in reality.
A string of minor appearances from Lucy Punch, Mamie Gummer and William H. Macy are littered throughout this sour tale of sufferance. Whilst they are all solid performances, they are actually rather distracting at times and end up as an overused cameo conveyer belt.
Aniston’s Claire lacks all notions of glamour, as her character echoes her sorely underrated role from 2002’s The Good Girl, verifying that the actress is not just a one trick pony and is capable of much more when surrounded by the right creative team.
Cake sees director Daniel Barnz (Wonderland, Won’t Back Down) continue in his series of female led narratives, collaborating with Patrick Tobin's laser sharp script in depicting a punishing tragedy and the cruel emotive fall out that ensues. Even with quirky moments of droll humour (Anna Kendrick’s foul mouthed apparition being a particular highlight), Cake is an acrimonious story with a central protagonist who eschews sympathy.