Jennifer Aniston shines in Daniel Barnz's sentimental and predictable drama
Cake has been gaining a lot of attention as the film in which a Golden Globe-nominated Jennifer Aniston dares to dispense with make-up and act mean. In truth, it is a thoroughly respectable performance and a welcome change from the inanities and indignities of her recent roles in Horrible Bosses 2 and We're the Millers.
Aniston has rarely been given the chance to test her dramatic range; in Cake, the fourth feature from director Daniel Barnz (Won't Back Down), she effectively captures both the physical and emotional anguish of a woman enduring chronic pain, whose life has fallen away from her like a crumbling cliff edge. However, if the performance passes muster then the film itself is increasingly soft-centred and obvious.
Suffering from the kind of back pain that has made her life a living hell, scarred and sour car crash survivor Claire (Aniston) has alienated everyone she once held dear, including her husband. Even her chronic pain support group has asked her to leave. When group member Nina (Anna Kendrick) commits suicide, Claire is regularly visited by her ghost and becomes obsessed with her death. Visiting Nina's widower Roy (Sam Worthington) and investigating what happened are the first steps towards making sense of the horrors in her own life.
Aniston is very good at conveying the physical discomfort of Claire and the way every movement has become an agony eased by drink, Percocet and casual sex with the gardener. The real problem is a story that signals exactly where it's going, with supposedly heartbreaking revelations that are entirely as you might expect. The central character and performance are intriguing but not enough to sustain a film that feels more and more like a TV-movie matinee. It seems cruel to suggest that Cake has a soggy bottom but it does feel only half-baked.
General release from Fri 20 Feb.