Billed as darkly comedic, it ends as darkly average.
Jennifer Aniston’s performance in Cake is undoubtedly the best of her career, but congratulating her would be akin to praising Arthur after he blew more than “the bloody doors off.”
Known almost uniquely for comedic roles, Aniston has looked to Cake as a breakout from the jail cell that is romantic comedies. And, as far as Cake is concerned, she’s pushed her arm through the bars, but filming finished before anyone was able to notice her flailing limb.
Cake focuses on Claire (Jennifer Aniston), a woman seeking medical care for her chronic pain after a serious accident. When her attention becomes centered on the suicide of Nina (Anna Kendrick), a member of her support group, Cake follows Claire’s ordeal as she struggles with issues such as drug addiction and her new volatile friendship with the widowed Roy (Sam Worthington).
Aniston’s character clearly suffers from her multitude of past rom-coms; A performance that may have been more presentable had she gradually built toward such a dramatically demanding role through other features.
Based around a limited plotline, the characterisation and tone of Cake are relied on overly so, and with such confidence placed in this tone, certain points bring a displeasing sense of uneasiness that almost branches to fear. Any hint of horror is something Cake desperately needs to stay away from.
This misplaced approach also presents itself in the use of blatantly obvious imagery. From Aniston’s grey cardigan to the plethora of cakes, the ideas would seem rather more fitting in a novel, leaving Cake with a perceivable lack of depth; a shame due to the tightly written dialogue.
Yet this can only be said for the main persona. Anna Kendrick’s role is as beautiful as it is creepy, but with the film so closely focused on the events surrounding Aniston, Kendrick is left intrinsically underused.
Unsurprisingly, this can too be said for the other actors. Unable to grasp any sort creative freedom, the key element needed to contrast the excruciating pain stimulated by the film’s lead is severely lacking. Aniston’s acting is not as strong as the film tries to make it out to be.
Nevertheless, Adriana Barraza manages to deliver a poignant moment in the film’s highlight act; a scene that Cake should have been able to replicate throughout, specifically in regards to its intensity. Which, at the core, is what Cake is missing throughout.
Seemingly everlasting holding shots focused solely on Aniston’s face are not only too frequent, but evoke a longing for a more creative approach in the space available due to a relatively short running time.
Cake brings out a want for more. There is undeniably a good feature film hiding at the bottom of its pile of convoluted imagery but it took a wrong turn early in its development. A wrong turn that nobody foresaw, or ever tried to do anything about. Billed as darkly comedic, it ends as darkly average.