What’s this then? The much hyped (and then nearly forgotten about) film Cake that was tipped to be Jennifer Aniston’s one-way ticket to an Oscar. Until it didn’t get nominated.
Oh. Awks. Is it? I think she’s probably OK. If there’s one thing the media loves doing it’s pitying Jennifer Aniston who, from our point of view is actually just fine. She’s got a wicked fiancé, universal appreciation, a banging body and, if Cake is anything to go by, a Matthew McConaughey-style career renaissance just around the corner.
OK, OK, we get it! She’s fine! What’s the film about then? So it’s about Claire, a crotchety, middle-aged woman living in LA who’s struggling to deal with what’s termed as ‘severe chronic pain’. Which, if you’ve managed to not come across so far in your life, is pain that lasts all day, every day, for months and even years at a time. In short, it sucks.
**So she’s ****in **severe pain all day? Why? Well that becomes clear as the film goes on and Claire’s past unfolds. Different people suffer from chronic pain for different reasons, from disease to longstanding injuries. Claire does attend a support group for other chronic painers but she doesn’t get on very well with them – largely because, as mentioned above, she’s crotchety. To put it mildly.
So what happens? When she’s ejected from the chronic pain club for being as she terms it, ‘a bitch’, Claire begins a weird friendship with the ghost of a former member of the club (Anna Kendrick) who killed herself by jumping off a motorway bridge. These hallucinations aren’t exactly helped by the copious amounts of painkillers and Sauvingnon Blanc Claire ingests, but nevertheless, they do lead to her meeting new people (her long-suffering housekeeper is the only person she interacts with) and ultimately, to begin a tough, uphill battle out of the depths of her despair.
And what are people saying about it? SO, so mixed it’s weird. The Guardian called it ‘half baked’ while _Rolling Ston_e claimed almost the opposite: ‘Yes, she’s damn near on her own up there. But she pulls it off triumphantly and cuts straight to the heart. Way to go, Aniston.’
And what are we saying about it? I, for one, can’t understand the hating. It’s a rough watch, deeply uncomfortable, incredibly frustrating and unsettling. Not much happens and from the outset, it’s clear there’s not ever going to be a completely happy ending for Claire at the end of all this. What there is, though, is a stellar performance from Jen An; who’s makeup-less face covered in scars is a far cry from the sleek Hollywood Jen we’re used to seeing.
The relationships Claire makes are dysfunctional, but in a way makes them feel all the more real. Nothing about the film’s story is overly remarkable and nothing about it is feel-good, but my God, it makes you count your blessing when you leave the cinema at the end. It’s a tough watch about one small unimportant life, but it’s definitely an important one.
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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.