Cake, directed by Daniel Barnz is an emotionally draining film that tries its best to ingratiate you with its main character Claire (played by Jennifer Aniston) but with some egregiously slow, under developed characters and plot, Cake ends up not hitting all of the marks that it wants to.
The film tells the story of Claire Bennett, a women struggling with the loss of her son and the constant, chronic pain that now plagues her since the accident that completely ruined her life. Claire becomes obsessed with one of the women from her support group who committed suicide (Nina who is played by Anna Kendrick) and soon seeks out her family with the hopes of finding some solace in their similarly troubling times.
Leading the film is Jennifer Aniston, who gives a worthy performance, though it is one that never wowed me or took me by surprise. There are many times in this film when Aniston’s character is at the lowest she seems to have ever been and these moments are powerful to watch but Aniston’s performance never seems to go far enough in showing it. I always felt that she was holding a little back and not fully committing to the role, which is a shame because had that little bit extra been there, I think this film would have succeeded better at what it was trying to do.
Cake is a film though that comes chalk full of interesting characters, from ‘Silvana’, Claire’s home help, to ‘Roy Collins’, the widower of Nina who committed suicide, leaving him with a 5 year old son to take care of. Each character in Cake comes with a diverse and well-rounded set of circumstances that creates many an interesting situation for our main character Claire to deal with in her already difficult life. It is the many interactions between these characters that keeps this very slow moving film moving along and worth watching.
The two characters in particular that are quite enjoyable to watch in the film are Claire and her home help Silvana. The relationship between these two feels real and full of history, it is the moments between these two that give us some of the most compelling and truthful scenes and the constant back and forth help keeps a light hearted-ness to what is mostly a very sombre experience (which after an hour of constant misery I appreciated a lot).
What might be Cake’s biggest failing is the lack of payoff for the multitude of things it sets up. There are so many details or moments that Cake offers up that I was expecting something of worth to come out of, but by the time the film finishes, there are so many loose ends that are never wrapped up and I was left puzzled by what large chunks of the film where even trying to accomplish. It wasn’t until the film had ended and I was walking out that I was realising in my head that so much was left un-said/untouched/unresolved and I began to become frustrated with how much the film forgets to answer any of the interesting questions it sets up. There is a big difference between leaving things open ended for the audience to interpret for themselves and blatantly just not following through with what seemed to be crucial moments of development for your characters and your plot. So after 1hr and 40 minutes the film ends, having barely touched on some of the most important aspects of its story and with most of its characters (including the main one, Claire) not receiving the satisfying ending (or in some characters situation a new beginning) at all.
With the topics that Cake touches upon (suicide, loss, addiction) it is a real shame how sloppily it handles them. None of the actors/characters are given the time and development they sorely need and the story of these people falls apart quickly and never rights itself. Ultimately the film left me feeling defeated and dissatisfied.
It is for these reasons that I would not recommend Cake. There was a chance to tell a beautiful and heartfelt story here and instead what we’re left with is a depressing struggle that gives no satisfying resolution for anyone, not even the audience.