It’s not news that Jennifer Aniston is a good actress, but Cake does offer her a meatier, more
serious role than she’s had in quite a while…and she delivers. What’s more,
director Daniel Barnz has surrounded her with talented actors who bring out all
the colors in Patrick Tobin’s dark, often sardonically funny screenplay. With
all these ingredients it’s a shame that Cake
overstays its welcome.
Aniston plays a woman with chronic pain who is so hostile
and abrasive that she’s asked to leave her support group. Her husband has left
her, as well. The one person who is faithful to her, beyond all reason, is her
Mexican housekeeper, played by the magnificent Adriana Barraza, whom you may
remember for her Oscar-nominated performance in Babel. Aniston has been through some sort of life-changing incident
that fuels Barraza’s devotion, but the film takes its time revealing the backstory
The other constant in Aniston’s life is the presence of a
young woman from her support group (Anna Kendrick) who recently committed suicide.
In a recurring series of hallucinations, she taunts Aniston into following her
lead and putting an end to her suffering.
Once we finally learn the reasons for the character’s
behavior, it would seem logical to bring the story to a climax, not to mention a
conclusion, but Cake doesn’t do that.
Instead we have to suffer through more crises and scenes of self-destructive
Director Barnz demonstrated his command of heightened emotions
in his remarkable debut feature, Phoebe
in Wonderland (2008), which he also wrote. He knows how to get the best
from his actors, including Chris Messina, Felicity Huffman, and Sam
Worthington; even smaller roles are enhanced by the canny casting of such
experienced performers as Lucy Punch, Mamie Gummer, William H. Macy and Julio
But the main attraction in Cake is Aniston, and the film serves as a prime showcase for her
talent. Unfortunately, it doesn’t serve the audience nearly as well. We are
made to suffer along with the character she plays and our reward isn’t as great
as it ought to be.