When God / Allah / Buddha / the deity of your personal choice is dishing out talent, how do comic actors manage to accrue the lion’s share? For not only are they blessed with the ability to make us laugh, but they can inevitably turn their hand to serious drama quicker than you can say ‘Billy Connolly’s Bafta nomination for Mrs Brown’. OK, so maybe not that quickly.
Latest case in point is Jennifer Aniston. Like or loathe the phenomenon that was Friends, you’d be churlish not to admit Ms Aniston was gifted with probably the best comic timing of the entire cast. But underneath the bouncy barnet always lurked a serious actor. Cake sees her let it loose.
Jennifer plays Clare, a chronic pain sufferer. Divorced, she lives alone attended by her maid Silvana (Adriana Barraza), whose caring nature she shamelessly takes advantage of. She attends a support group run by the touchy feely Annette (Felicity Huffman), who dispenses sugar coated platitudes that sit ill with the naturally acerbic Clare. The group are in shock having just lost a member, Nina (Anna Kendricks), to suicide and after one sarcastic comment too many, it’s brusquely suggested Clare find herself a new group.
At first, the cause of Clare’s pain is unclear. She has brutal scars on her body but her pain seems as much mental as physical. She refuses to cooperate with her physiotherapist and, hooked on prescription drugs, seems uninterested in getting better until curiosity leads her to track down Nina’s widowed husband, Roy (Sam Worthington). Striking up a friendship, they eventually find solace in each other’s company and shared traumatic experiences.
Cake is not a cheery film. It’s slow and the story is hardly original – we’ve seen the painful path to redemption story umpteen times before. What’s interesting are the characters and the performances. Jennifer Aniston is on top form as Clare, taking on a character that is self-indulgent and unlikable and bravely not watering her down. Films mostly portray those who are suffering in a nobly heroic light. We found it refreshing to see one more ambivalent.
UK release 20 February