Daniel Barnz’s Cake blends drama with black comedy. The film hinges on a strong performance by lead Jennifer Aniston, which she pulls off with aplomb.
Claire becomes fascinated by the suicide of one of the women in her chronic pain support group. As she delves deeper into the circumstances of the suicide, Claire needs to confront her own tragedy…
Cake is a drama with flecks of dark humour. Screenwriter Patrick Tobin focuses on protagonist Claire, a misanthropic character who is buried in physical and emotional pain. Rather than dealing with her problems stoically, Claire lashes out at those around her. The character is well drawn; viewers will be able to sympathise with her pain and understand her attitude.
The narrative of Cake is on the light side. The film functions more as a character study than anything else. Other characters appear for Claire to rally against, or to open up part of the tragedy that Claire is trying to avoid. The backstory of what has happened to Claire is not revealed until late on in the film, despite hints being dropped along the way. This works well to retain the audience’s attention; Claire has a lot to be angry and frustrated about, but the full extent is not made clear until much later.
The second half of Cake is more sentimental than the first, with Claire reluctantly facing up to issues. Director Daniel Barnz’s film never becomes schmaltzy, but there is a change in tone. The device of the hallucinations functions to provide black humour and for Claire to elucidate her feelings. The device is partially successful, although sometimes it seems as if the need for Claire to vocalise her feelings is overplayed.
Jennifer Aniston offers one of the strongest performances of her career. She is completely believable as the acerbic Claire. Good support is provided by Adriana Barraza, whilst Felicity Huffman and Lucy Punch are decent in minor roles.
Cake entertains throughout, even if it is not wholly satisfying. The film is certainly worth a watch for Aniston’s performance.
Cake is available on Blu-Ray and DVD from 29th June 2015.