At a support group for people suffering from chronic pain, Claire (Jennifer Aniston) becomes obsessed with the suicide of another member of the group. Popping pills in order to keep the pain at bay, and pushing people away with her caustic attitude, Claire starts seeing the dead girl Nina (Anna Kendrick) and even having conversations with her. Her long suffering housekeeper Silvana puts up with Claire’s mistreatment due to a touching sense of loyalty and sympathy, but as Claire ups her dose of prescription pills and begins a relationship with Nina’s grieving husband and son, things being to spiral towards tragedy.
Cake is a film full of grief and loss. The characters have all been touched by tragedy before the film even begins. Many face a fork in the road; the decision of whether to take the path that leads to salvation or to suicide. Claire once had everything and the details of her past tragedy are slowly drip fed throughout the film, allowing the audience to sympathise with this initially very hard to like woman. She is damaged goods, but Cake is also a film of unexpected saviours. Her relationship with her housekeeper seems to have come almost exactly out of Sandra Bullock’s character from Crash, but doesn’t make her arc any less endearing.
While Aniston hasn’t bagged an Oscar nomination for her role as Claire, it’s a commendable departure from many of her more straightforwardly comedic appearances in films. She is surrounded by an excellent supporting cast with Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy being great in a handful of scenes between them, and Sam Worthington is surprisingly good, bringing some real sensitivity to his character. With so many characters dealing with death, Cake is not a fun film. However, the well drawn characters and strong performances make this a film that is sweet without being too sickly.
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