We’ve all seen Jennifer Aniston as the girl next door type, or the rom-com charmer, but her role in Cake takes a complete, career-defining turn. Directed by Daniel Barnz, Cake sees Claire Bennett (Aniston), who is struggling with chronic pain, her disability, and the death of a member of her chronic pain support group, Nina (Anna Kendrick).
The film opens with the support group discussing the recent death of Nina, while Claire, the bitterly sarcastic cynic, sits there doodling, commending the deceased for her ‘impressive’ death. When we see her at home, it is clear that Claire is no longer taking care of her herself – Aniston does not wear any make-up during the film, apart from the prosthetic scarring on her face. She often flirts with the idea of suicide, but is constantly pulled back by a sudden awakening or a telling-off from her maid-turned-carer, Silvana (played by the brilliant Adriana Barraza, star and director of Locura De Amor). From early on, you begin to question what is real and what isn’t, as Claire’s addiction to pain medication increases.
The script, written by Patrick Tobin, was chosen by director Daniel Barnz after it was submitted into a screenwriting competition he was judging. Barnz picking up on its powerful voice and compelling storyline. Despite the film’s dark themes, Aniston has wonderful comedic timing, whilst managing to maintain the depth of such a scarred character. The director and producers decided to cast Aniston as they were big fans of her role in the 2002 film, The Good Girl. Cake reminded me somewhat of The Skeleton Twins, which came out earlier in 2014, with its dark humour surrounding the theme of suicide, but Barnz’s film seemed to flow better, with a real flair.
One particular scene that stood out was a hallucination Claire has as she falls asleep with the death of Nina still playing on her mind. As Claire walks out of her bedroom and into her garden, with her head clouding and her vision faded, the recently deceased Nina visits her in a dream. As Nina pressures Claire to drown herself in the water, a blurring of reality and imagination becomes apparent, especially with the Mexican mariachi music playing by the pool, amplifying the scene’s bizarre atmosphere. The clever editing (the work of Kristina Boden) and camera work (Rachel Morrison, director of Photography) really heightens these vivid hallucinations and Claire’s incessant use of painkillers.
The music for the film was composed by Christophe Beck (the composer behind Frozen), whose crescendos and staccato elements of the score add to its tension and completely engulf the audience in the hallucinogenic experiences of the drugged-up Claire. The film was also shot entirely in Los Angeles, and frequently flicks between bright, picturesque landscapes of blue skies, attractive marketplaces, and the dull, bleak surroundings of Claire when she’s at home, her support group, or her rehabilitation.
The film doesn’t have any particular big grand moments, rather it has a number of events and dreams that lead to an emotional climax and a complete development of Aniston’s character. It is definitely a career defining role for Aniston, despite her already successful acting life.
Genre: Drama Rating: 15 Release: 20th February Director: Daniel Barnz Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Adriana Barraza, Sam Worthington, Anna Kendrick, William H Macy, Felicity Huffman