Language: English, Spanish
Director: Daniel Barnz
Writer: Patrick Tobin
Music: Christophe Beck
Cinematography: Rachel Morrison
William H. Macy
Julio Oscar Mechoso
It may sound dismissive to phrase the sentence “CAKE features Jennifer Aniston’s career-best performance so far” since the only noteworthy acting job from Ms. Aniston’s filmography before CAKE is THE GOOD GIRL (2002), a modest dark comedy gives her a nomination of Independent Spirit Awards more than a decade ago (being an eternal fanboy of FRIENDS, it is painful to admit that the sea change takes a bit too long to happen, ok, who am I kidding? She has been one of the most bankable mainstream actress and beloved celebrities in the cutthroat line of work, who would whine about that!), however, it is truly a sterling transformation for any actor to portray Clair as the way Ms. Aniston has done, a woman constantly suffered from chronic pain, and this is only the physical torture, a past tragedy of loss her son is severely gnawing at her internally, to the verge of giving up her own life.
A hyped campaign failed to nab Aniston a coveting Oscar nomination this year (after usurping a nomination both in the Golden Globe and SAG), but a silver lining is that it forebodes a luminous path for her to partake in more non-commercial roles as she is in the awkward age for an actress when passes her heyday, which can test her potential as a thespian. In CAKE, she is somewhat disfigured with patent scars on her make-up-free face, much more aged than her usual screen persona, Claire is a rich, middle-aged, white woman, her perfect life is ravished by a tragedy, she is separated from her husband Jason (Messina), lives alone in her house with a private swimming pool, is taken care of by a Mexican maid Silvana (Barraza). Harassed by the hallucinations of Nina (Kendrick), a young woman in her support group who just committed suicide, Claire gets to know Nina’s husband Roy (Worthington), widowed with their young son, they start a tentative friendship and unconventionally, romance is strictly off the table because they both have more urgent obstacles to clear off.
As the official poster of the movie indicates, it is a one-woman-show for Aniston, owing to the chronic pain, she needs to convey it through every single movement with discernible heedfulness as if every inhale/exhale is painful to her. This is a performance requires all the awareness up to the minimum scale, and Aniston massively exceeds my expectation, she nails it with relentless commitment and occasionally wry humour. Also Oscar-nominee Adriana Barraza, although in her default maid setting, strikes up a strong screen rapport with Aniston, their closeness surpasses blood-line and monetary interest, evinces a pure warmth and mutual understanding between two individuals without any hidden agenda (although in real life, it would mostly be a wishful thinking).
A quite star-studded supporting cast for a low-key indie aside, the film can be inclusively reckoned as Aniston’s labour of love, she is one of the executive producers too, it is a story aims for a niché target for empathy as the story itself doesn’t come off as anything extraordinary (a sore misstep is William H. Macy’s Leonard, whose appearance is so wantonly and banally utilised at the convenience of a predictable plot propeller), only those who has experienced trauma or chronic pain can emotively connected with Claire’s mindset, but it has its own well-meaning intention to encourage us buck up no matter how difficult life treats you. Finally, for those who wonder why the movie is named CAKE? It has a very literal explanation in it, but it is also pretty inane as we have basically no clue whatever has happened in Nina’s back-story, on top of that, Claire doesn’t even make the cake herself, a rich person’s blues, as poignant as that, is too patronising to stomach organically.