Cake review – Jennifer Anniston carries an otherwise stiff narrative

Another year, another awards season officially behind us. Any film coming out during the aftermath of all the glitz and glamour of the Academy and its contemporaries really does have to bring out all the stops to stand out. Let’s see how Cake did.

Many were somewhat surprised that Jennifer Aniston didn’t get an invite to the popular girl’s Best Actress birthday bash for her transformative role in her latest film. Cake’s protagonist Claire is a bitter 30 something suffering from chronic pain following a tragic car accident which killed her young son. She finds a new purpose to her life after a member of her support group commits suicide. Thus begins Claire’s journey to seek out the woman’s widower while still dealing with her own pain constantly.

It has become quite fashionable for comedic actors to all of a sudden surprise everyone with a deep career-defining role, especially in the last couple of months. Steve Carrell in Foxcatcher springs to mind but we can also mention Eddie Redmayne, Ben Affleck and even Miles Teller in Whiplash (most definitely completely underrated and under rewarded.) All of these actors have proven themselves worthy and capable of much more than cracking a few jokes and looking quite pretty.

There’s no doubt about it, Anniston is very impressive in Cake. With her various facial scars and also a seemingly tattooed-on expression of bitterness and pain, she is unrecognizable and gives an extremely intense and harrowing performance. She manages to embody nostalgia and resentment very compellingly, and is rather credible at being eternally in pain.

Unfortunately, that seems to be the only positive aspect of the film. By no means am I undermining the bold task that the actress with a permanent Friends label on her forehead has undertaken, but the fact is that the whole film centres in on this Jennifer Aniston microcosm. Around it, the story is rather stiff.

The topic of the film is undoubtedly intense and by no means a laughing matter, but does not actually make for an enjoyable cinematic experience in any way shape or form. Characters that could potentially have been exploited remain rather superficial, and the various sub-plot trajectories seem to all fall flat mid-flight, leaving an overall dissatisfaction and sense of nothingness once the credits fade in.

Hats off to Anniston who has proven that she does still have many great things to show the world. In terms of the film itself… let’s just leave it in the 2014 annals and stick on Netflix. Friends is never too far away, thankfully.

★★☆☆☆

Originally published on Epigram

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