Cake

Directed: Daniel Barnz (2015)

Jennifer Aniston learns suicide is far from painless in this dark, rich and tasty drama.

Playing a chronic pain sufferer who’s also coping with complex emotional issues, Aniston demonstrates how superb she can be with strong material. Hopefully this is a kick-start to an interesting new phase of her career.

With bad hair, baggy clothes and no make-up but copious scar-tissue, Claire Bennett (Aniston) is a divorcee with low self-esteem and high pain levels; sitting is awkward, standing is tricky and walking is difficult.

Despite months of physical therapy following an accident, her condition hasn’t improved. So Claire is self-medicating with wine and painkillers.

Doctors are scared of her and loyal maid Silvana (Adriana Barraza) is shouldering the emotional fallout as Claire indulges in unsatisfying trysts with the married pool guy and is kicked out of a support group due to anger management issues.

Nina (Anna Kendrick) was a support group friend who committed suicide by throwing herself from a multi-level motorway leaving only a succinct suicide note.

As an expression of Claire’s mental state, Nina now pops up for frequent fantasy conversations – in restaurants, in bed, even at a drive-in. Though Nina encourages Claire to commit suicide, these episodes are far more funny than morbid due to Kendrick’s sparky performance.

Claire is compelled to examine Nina’s life; visiting her grave, seeing the place where she died and even pitching up at the house where she lived – to the bemusement of widower Roy Collins (Sam Worthington).

Worthington’s screen presence can be underwhelming but here his dead pan delivery is warmly engaging and enjoys a sweet comic chemistry with Aniston.

Roy is not afraid to admit he’s bitter at his Nina’s choosing to leave him and their daughter. He and Claire bond over nachos, beer and anger issues. Both are looking for comfort and affection more than sex.

Aniston is the central ingredient of this sensitive, balanced, consistent and surprisingly humorous movie. With charm, intelligence, excellent timing and dramatic delivery she maintains our sympathies even when playing a complex, prickly and manipulative character.

Dusted with a light icing of hope this Cake is deeply satisfying, indulge yourself.

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