Cake review: Jennifer Aniston lets it all hang out

Look! It’s Rachel from ‘Friends’ with scars and no make-up. Sadly for Aniston, however, she can’t have her cake and an Oscar too

Peter Strickland's indie-erotic film 'The Duke of Burgundy' has really impressed Tara Brady, while Donald Clarke has enjoyed Michael Mann's latest opus, 'Blackhat'. Video: Niamh Guckian

Film Title: Cake

Director: Daniel Barnz

Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Adriana Barraza, Mamie Gummer, Felicity Huffman, William H. Macy, Chris Messina, Lucy Punch, Britt Robertson, Anna Kendrick, Sam Worthington

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 102 min

Fri, Feb 20, 2015, 10:34

   

HHHWhen Claire (Jennifer Aniston) is asked to share her thoughts and feelings about Nina (Anna Kendrick), who has lately committed suicide, the ensuing pitiless tirade sees her chronic pain support group ask her to leave forever. This, we realise, is something of a pattern with Claire, whose sardonic snarl masks a tragic history.

It is left to faithful domestic Silvana (the quietly charismatic Adriana Barraza) to help Claire with her spiralling prescription drug habit, her lonely existence and her weird investigation into Nina’s life.

Many commentators, including Jennifer Aniston, feel that Jennifer Aniston deserved an Oscar nod for her work on Cake. Fair enough. She certainly does good work here. But it does always feel like she’s doing good work.

That’s not entirely her fault. Daniel Barnz’s drama proved far too much like Oscar bait for the Academy’s sensibility and, indeed, for most viewers’ sensibilities. Too often, the film cries out: Look! Rachel from Friends has facial scars and no make-up!

Cake’s melancholic movements wriggle and gleam on a hook that seems a little bit wonky. There are several dramatic strands that might, given due care and attention, have blossomed into catchy subplots: Clare’s fascination with Nina, then Nina’s husband; Clare’s strained, unresolved relationship with her former husband; and, most promising, the buddy picture that might have been between Aniston and the excellent Barraza.

Still, Aniston does make us care about her prickly, damaged character. There’s enough going on to hold our interest, even if it doesn’t quite congeal into anything as finished as the titular dessert. Tech specs are top-notch: Rachael Morrison’s cinematography, in particular, does a great deal to convey the central character’s addled state of mind.