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A not so layered CAKE (review)

a-layered-cake-review

Cake didn't fulfill my day, but it made me more curious about Jennifer Aniston's dramatic skills. Never before have I wondered about the actress' presence in anything other than comedy, and even though her newest movie hasn't quite convinced me that she should pursue this path, it gave me the push to be curious about whatever comes next in her career.

Daniel Barnz's (Phoebe in Wonderland) dark comedy tells the story of Claire Simmons (Aniston), a woman who suffers of chronic pain after an accident she had a while back when his son was killed. Since the accident, Claire has been driving everyone away, including her husband (Chris Messina), her group support therapist and possibly anyone who tried to get too close. The only person who stuck around was her immigrant housekeeper Silvana (Adriana Barraza), a woman who she doesn't treat all that well, but who has grown emotionally attached to her employer, and can't seem to help showing up even when her help is not asked for.

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The opening scene of our movie offers a glimpse into the realities of a chronic pain support group. For me, it didn't feel right to dive into this sort of info so fast into the movie, but that's that. While everyone else in the group expresses shock and sadness over the loss of one of their own, Nina (Anna Kendrick), who recently jumped from a freeway overpass, Claire responds with her own slice of sarcasm and a 'fuck you' attitude towards everybody in the group, especially the leader (Felicity Huffman). It feels refreshing to hear her be real alongside all the porcelain dolls, but the scene still feels inadequate in terms of plot. But anyways, from it, you're probably suppose to wonder if she’s considered the suicide option herself, given the acute intensity of her physical agony. Day in and day out she stuffs herself with painkillers. The following day, the support leader leaves her a message saying that she should look for another support group because she's obviously not connected with her recent one. To numb the the several layers of pain, Claire sometimes sleeps with her gardener.

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At one point, our main character runs out of ways to refill her prescription, so she and Silvana have to drive down to Mexico in search of said drugs. Although Silvana's daughter doesn't like Claire, the two have a bond that comes out every now and then and if I were to mention something that I liked about this movie is exactly that. A relationship that was triggered by money, but has been kept alive by real human connection. In fact, Silvana's character is probably more well-rounded than Claire's.

The story gets intricate - or so was the intention - when Claire begins having dreams, and sometimes hallucinations, about Nina. One thing leads to another and she ends up visiting her husband, Roy (Sam Worthington), and their young son, trying to find some piece of mind. Every now and then Claire reveals a side of her personality that seems to be well hidden behind the pain. She's funny and resourceful and at some point we find out she used to be a lawyer. After meeting Roy, Claire becomes more open to the idea of getting better and finally accepting the realities of her loss, but before she has a chance to put it into practice, she has one last huge relapse, when her son's killer (William H. Macy) shows up at the door to ask for forgiveness and she starts punching him. To numb the overwhelming pain, she takes tons of pills and ends up in the hospital, where Nina's ghost appears once again, looking Claire into going through with her suicide. Fortunately, that doesn't happen, but the final shots actually suggest that Claire has made the decision of entering a different stage in her life. If it weren't for the silly ending, I might have been left with a better impression.

In the end, Cake talks about repeated patterns of behavior, but the process of revealing the plot might have been intellectualized to the point where the truthfulness and relevance of the story has been lost. Yes, Aniston's performance was decent, even intriguing here and there, and Adriana Barazza's was even better, but that's not enough to make this movie relevant in any way.

Tags:   review, Jennifer Aniston, drama, film review, Cake, chronic pain

Related:   Cake


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