HOLLYWOOD—Not many of us have seen actress Jennifer Aniston in a stripped down performance. When I think of Aniston the first thing that comes to mind is “Friends.” Aniston proves her ability to tackle dramatic material in the gripping film “Cake.”
She portrays a woman suffering from chronic pain and addiction. Its one of those roles that actresses in Hollywood vie for, to portray a character stripped down to the core, it’s a revelation to watch the drama unfold on the big screen. It’s transformative, unflinching, destructive and emotionally punishing to the viewer at times.
Aniston portrays Claire who is attending meetings to cope with unbearable pain, but finds herself a bit haunted by the sudden suicide by another member, Nina portrayed by Anna Kendrick. It’s not just the pain that Claire has to live with; it’s the physical scars on her body. Seeing Claire use her charm as a way to get more pills was one of those shining moments; this woman knows how bad her addiction is, but doesn’t care. She contemplates suicide on so many occasions, as a spectator you begin to fear she might just succeed at it.
“Cake” is one of those films that sticks with you, it seriously addresses a common theme all of us face: addiction. Rather it’s to alcohol, drugs, pills, pornography, work, food, we all have addictions, and they are scary to confront. Seeing our protagonist retrieve a load of pills from multiple hiding spots in her home only further reveals how serious her addiction is.
There is a complexity to Claire, that is not easy to pinpoint with a single word, and that’s thanks to Aniston’s layered performance, delivering laughs at times, agony, fear, despair and hosts of other emotions. Kudos is also in order for Adriana Barraza for performance as Claire’s loyal maid.
The more we learn about Claire, we discover that her car accident hasn’t just inflicted her with physical pain and scars, but the death of her son, which she hides so well it’s scary. For a bulk of the movie, the audience has no idea that Claire even has a son. Like her addiction, she is able to hide things fairly well from those who don’t know her; we can say that about most people in our lives right?
“Cake” is a movie that surprises you, from its opening scene to somewhat triumphant ending, you’re intrigued by Claire. You want to know more about her life, you want to know more about the people that interact with her, you want to know her secrets. I came into the theater with very little expectations for this movie, but found myself engrossed in this indie directed by Daniel Barnz with such care, and a narrative by Patrick Tobin that is more exciting than it appears. As for its title, “Cake” the meaning makes sense as the movie reaches its climax.
The one surprising element about this movie isn’t just the notion that it’s a riveting piece of cinema; it’s the performance of Jennifer Aniston that takes it to new heights.