TIFF 2014 Review: Cake
It doesn’t become clear until later on what exactly happened to Claire Simmons, but she is in a great deal of discomfort. Adopting an attitude that is both curmudgeonly and blasé, Simmons copes with a need for pills, deals with ensuing hallucinations, and ultimately seeks some sort of solace with her chronic pain.
Directed by Daniel Barnz, the darkly comic drama Cake follows intimately details the struggles of Simmons, played by an exceptionally impressive, sympathetic Jennifer Aniston. The scars on her body illustrate some of the problem, and her continued carelessness is well represented by her outfit of choice: sweats.
She also isn’t’ particular careful with her words; sharp tongue gets her kicked out of a support group, though the ghost of a member who recently committed suicide (Anna Kendrick) haunts her.
The sympathy part that is of the utmost importance; she is after all rich, white, attractive, living in a lovely home in Los Angeles, and tended to by a Mexican caretaker. A tight script by Patrick Tobin doesn’t let the story become something bigger: it’s not really about pills or suicide, and it’s barely about cake.
Claire may not be outwardly depressed (outwardly angry, that’s for sure), but she becomes obsessed with suicide and what made said woman jump. She is so curious in fact that she ventures to meet her ex-husband (a well-cast Sam Worthington), and the two of them start a curious relationship.
Cake progresses towards sentimentality and meaning, but maintains its jagged edges throughout, touching the line that separates authentic with cheesy, but never going over. Even when ancillary characters enter Claire’s life – her ex husband, a young runaway, a figure from her past – these people are seen through her eyes and never allowed to have the floor, and rightly so. It’s Claire’s story, and Aniston amazes.