A fatal accident takes the life of her son, nearly killing her in the process, and Claire (Jennifer Aniston) is left fragmented. Ridden with insomnia and chronic pain, she greets everyday with disdain. With every drive, she winces loudly passenger side in pain as she is transported from her support group to doctor’s appointments and then to rehab, but the sudden suicide of her support group member, Nina (Anna Kendrick), gives Claire an alternative; an opportunity to depart the world she so desperately wants to leave behind.
Yearning to find some resolve, she prowls aimlessly from room to room in her house, eventually resorting to investigating the life of her deceased friend. Irreparable curiosity leads her to Nina’s home where she meets her husband Roy, (Sam Worthington), and thus begins an unlikely relationship. Hallucinations soon lead to a paralyzing fear of the unknown. The thought of death slowly bubbling to the surface disguised in multiple suicide attempts. For Claire, death is a mild consequence, relief from a lifetime riddled with pain.
“Directed by Daniel Barnz, written by Patrick Tobin, “Cake” delves into a minute, but integral fragment of the human psyche; one that is often visited but rarely explored.”
Jennifer Aniston does a fantastic job in her portrayal of trauma survivor Claire Bennett as she struggles to pull together life’s unravelled threads. Every step is a triumph for Claire, every breath, every moment in which she convinces herself to move forward instead of remaining dormant. Her trustful domestic aid Silvana (Adriana Barraza) is one of the few people aware of Claire’s struggle. She identifies and attempts to rectify Claire’s pain as best she can even though Claire refuses her help. Rounding out the cast is Sam Worthington, Felicity Huffman, and Chris Messina as Claire’s ex-but still loving – husband.
At a glance, “Cake” offers a glimpse into the lives of trauma survivors whose daily confrontation is measured by life’s unwarranted cruelty.
Aniston undeniably transforms herself as a disheartened soul desperate to dissipate into the air alongside scattered leaves. She creates a visceral performance, surrendering herself to defeat as Claire attempts to bury her pain. A shadow of her former shelf, Claire relishes in utmost despair, disregarding the sympathy of others, and most often, herself.
The landscape within the film stretches as far as the Mexican border but resides specifically in Claire’s abode in Southern California. Visually, the film thrives on its close and medium shots, rarely ever providing a complete peripheral of Claire’s surroundings unless it is integral to enhancing the scene. Tobin’s script is witty, enjoyable, and sometimes heart wrenching but the teleplay between Barraza and Aniston is the true victor in this cinematic tell-tale.
Inevitably, “Cake” sheds light on what some sanctioned, previously, as taboo. The film, nonetheless, reminds audiences of an important lesson: pain and suffering is all too relative to the human being. For Nina, surviving was unbearable. Living through the pain was more difficult than feeling nothing at all. For Claire, living resides in determining the worthiness of one’s livelihood.