Cake is definitely an interesting choice for the title of a movie about chronic pain. I’m not going to give it away, but you don’t find out why it’s called that until the last half hour or so. In fact, that’s what I liked about this film – it unfolds slowly. It’s almost as if we’re given information about Claire Simmons (Jennifer Aniston) on a need-to-know basis.
We first meet Aniston’s character in a chronic pain support group, where the facilitator of the group (Felicity Huffman) asks them to express their feelings about Nina, a member who recently committed suicide. Claire proceeds to do just that. And we’re off! Her fascination with Nina Collins (Anna Kendrick) and the family she left behind is just the tip of the iceberg of Claire’s issues and all the stuff she’s dealing with.
Most reviewers that I’ve read seem to see this movie as a just okay portrayal of an LA woman suffering terrible chronic pain. I’ve known people who live with chronic pain – it colours their worlds in ways the rest of us can’t even imagine. Add to that mix, the death of a child…personally I thought Aniston’s performance was a subtle balance of the love-hate this character feels about the world in general and herself in particular. Although you’ve got be interested in the story of a person who is so angry she’s asked to leave her support group – by voice mail.
But as she digs deeper into Nina’s story, more about Claire’s own circumstances are revealed. Eventually the bitchiness, the ever-present seething anger bubbling just beneath the surface, and her stash of pill bottles hidden behind the picture hanging in the hallway next to the kitchen make perfect sense. I didn’t see Jennifer; from the first frame of the movie I only saw Claire and her personal battle to make sense of the senseless.
I agree, this film is not for everyone. But that was another thing I liked about the movie Cake – while the theme is dark, the subject matter is handled intelligently, with a lot of compassion and a touch of humour. One scene shows Felicity Huffman making Aniston set her peace offering on the floor between them – she wants the gift but she doesn’t want Claire to get close enough to hand it to her.