Forget Horrible Bosses, Wanderlust and The Bounty Hunter, Jennifer Aniston reminds us just how good she can be playing a chronic pain sufferer in sombre drama Cake.

We first meet her at a support group where she chastises former member, Nina (Anna Kendrick), for committing suicide. Claire (Aniston) is angry, embittered and irritable but Cake fuses her physical pain and drug dependency with a deep emotional suffering that makes Cake as much a meditation on taking one’s own life as it is an exploration of living with pain.
Cake Jennifer Aniston

Screenwriter Patrick Tobin drip feeds us clues: from the chronic pain booklet on Claire’s knee to the suggestion of pins in her legs. Claire’s effort to reclaim her former self shuns the smooth trajectory favoured by Hollywood. Instead, progress comes in bursts where two steps forward are followed by a huge leap back.

Despite the complexity in Tobin’s writing, Cake’s plot is often cumbersome. Claire’s conversations with the dead Nina and her friendship with Nina’s widowed husband (Sam Worthington) are rescued from cliche chiefly by the originality of the performances.

The casting of Aniston – an established comedy actress, who already cut her dramatic teeth in The Good Girl – is inspired. The suffering in Aniston’s eyes, the agony in her stiffened posture and the stress in her shallow breathing deservedly gained her a Golden Globe nomination. Our association of Aniston with laughter, along with brief smiles that we recognise, only intensify our impression that Claire is a shadow of her former self.

 

VERDICT: ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ 4/5

 

Certificate: 15
Running Time: 102 minutes
Images: © 2014 – Cinelou Releasing
UK Release Date: 20 February 2015

 

Review first printed in Ashfield & Mansfield Chad

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