Directed by Daniel Barnz and written by Patrick Tobin, Cake is a tough watch and deals with challenging themes such as grief and pain, though is indubitably, a fascinating picture. Before watching Cake, I saw that the cast consisted of Jennifer Aniston, Anna Kendrick, Sam Worthington and Britt Robertson, so I was rather surprised to learn that the plot of this film was so dark and difficult, considering the past productions these actors have been involved in.
Jennifer Aniston is, of course, famous for her role as Rachel Green in super successful sitcom Friends and it’s easy to appreciate that it is a tricky process to disassociate oneself from such a renowned show and character. Thereafter, it is clear that Aniston is trying to do just that with her performance as Claire and, ultimately, she succeeds in producing a shockingly gripping presentation of a depressed woman. Claire suffers the tragic death of her child and when attending a support group, she becomes engrossed with the story of another member who commits suicide. This captivation leads her to meet the family of the suicide victim who, initially, are cautious around her, though as time passes, they offer a much needed relief from her struggles.
Cake provides a disquieting insight into the troubles of family life following a sudden death, and identifies the potential changes of various relationships as a result. Grief has, undoubtedly been depicted on screen before, but rarely in such a way has it been illuminated as having such a debilitating impact as it has on Claire. Throughout the movie, Claire is in constant pain with serious back problems, and it is quite uncomfortable to watch as she struggles to walk, to sit up straight or stand and she relies on her maid to do practically everything for her. This agony, naturally, leads her to be aggressive and stern, further lessening the happiness she can extract from life, which, in due course, makes her voyage of recovery all the more astounding and moving to experience.
Aniston is outstanding in Cake. To play such a defeated, forlorn character cannot be easy, but she certainly does depict a seriously depressed woman excellently, almost to the extent one may wonder what she did to prepare for this role. How she did not get recognised in the Oscars is a mystery and it surely raises some questions with regard to the possible politics within the academy. This could be the breakthrough that enables Aniston to acquire more serious roles and redefine herself as an actress. In addition, Aniston was involved in the production of Cake, which shows an admirable intent to redistribute her talent, knowledge and wealth into the industry.
She is joined by Anna Kendrick, who plays the suicide victim Nina, and the twenty nine year old provides a pleasing dimension to the film. At the beginning, Nina represents Claire’s obsession with the idea of a happy, normal life, though as the film progresses, she becomes a more sinister, perverse aspect of Claire’s insecurities and taunts her and ridicules her. Cake explores the frailty of the human mind and how distraught it can be after a horrible tragedy. In doing so, it is by no means a light hearted watch, but unquestionably, an important emphasis on this upsetting issue.
Aniston’s performance is the highlight of Cake, and is the breath of fresh air in an otherwise heavy picture. Not afraid to blatantly display depression but at the same time capable of colourfully suggesting hope, Cake is powerful and moving, and is the kind of film that stays with you a couple of days after watching.