Saturday movie review: Cake

Five minutes into CAKE, I asked my husband, who was watching along with me, if watching it was going to give him nightmares. Jim chuckled and said, "I was wondering the same thing." 

We had the exchange not because CAKE is a scary movie and my husband is a chicken, but because CAKE is about chronic pain and my husband has suffered from such for more than a decade. He managed to watch it all the way through, though, with nary a nightmare that night.

Cake movie

CAKE, starring Jennifer Aniston in a dark, powerful role, is about, yes, chronic pain, but also about grief and suicide and making the choice to go on despite pain and sorrow and loss beyond what most have experienced. It's also about friendship, acceptance, and motherhood.

CAKE is a black comedy with far more "black" than comedy, yet a fair share of humor here and there. The themes are depressing but the delivery (and excellent acting) offers hope.

In the film, Jennifer Aniston stars as Claire Bennett, a mother whose body is marked with scars physical and psychological, all resulting from a horrendous car accident that damaged her and killed her son. As the film opens, she's part of a support group for chronic pain sufferers, led by Annette (Felicity Huffman). The group is discussing the suicide of fellow member Nina (Anna Kendrick). Claire's response gets her kicked out of the support group. She spends the rest of the film contemplating suicide—which is magnified and encouraged by hallucinations of Nina here and there.

Apparently there was much talk of Aniston earning an Oscar nomination for her role in CAKE. She didn't earn the Oscar nomination, though, but she certainly should have. (She did receive best actress nominations from the Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globes as well as others, with one win.) I know what chronic pain looks like, Jim knows what it feels like, and Jennifer Aniston did a painfully believable job of portraying it. She also portrays the ultimate bitch who covers her pain—on the outside and inside—by pushing away those who love and care about her. She's addicted to pain pills, and suicide seems a logical solution to her. Every ounce of her performance is believable, laudable.

Anna Kendrick as Nina is perky as usual, which underscores the reality that suicidal people don't always look and act suicidal. And even moms do it, now and then. Which is heartbreaking for those left behind. Nina's husband Roy (played by Sam Worthington) makes it clear there's just as much anger toward those who commit suicide as there is heartbreak.

Felicity Huffman and her real-life husband William H. Macy have brief but important roles, as does Mami Gummer (fabulously talented daughter of Meryl Streep who looks and acts so darn much like her mama). Adrian Barraza (whom you may recognize from BABEL) plays Silvana, Claire's housekeeper/caretaker, a saint who takes far more attitude and <cuss> from Claire than most others yet sticks around and cares more than hired help would be expected to.

CAKE isn't a film filled with happy moments but, as I mentioned, there's inspiration, hope, and a fair amount of humor. If nothing else, it's definitely worth watching simply for Aniston's performance.

Here Jennifer Aniston talks about the role and the film with Queen Latifah:

CAKE (rated R for "language, substance abuse and brief sexuality") was released in theaters in January and will be out on DVD and Blu-ray April 21, 2015. For more info, visit the official CAKE movie website.

I saw a free screening of this film courtesy Fox Home Entertainment; all opinions are my own.