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TIFF Review: ‘Cake’ Starring Jennifer Aniston, Anna Kendrick, Sam Worthington & More

TIFF Review: 'Cake' Starring Jennifer Aniston, Anna Kendrick, Sam Worthington & More

There’s been some recent talk about Jennifer Aniston’s performance in “Cake” as a potential dark horse for a Best Actress Oscar nomination. Allow us to put a stop this. Aniston digs deeper than she has in recent years, encroaching on territory much darker than people are accustomed to seeing her in, but thanks to a bloated screenplay from Patrick Tobin, and by-the-numbers direction from Daniel Barnz, “Cake” wallows in self-pity too much to sustain any true merit. This holds true for her performance, even though we still recommend the film to fans of her work because there are occasional moments of crackling wit and emotional investment in the story.

Claire Simmons (Aniston) attends a chronic pain support group as part of her therapy for getting over an overwhelming tragic event in her life. She is a broken woman, both physically, as presented with scars all over her body, and psychologically, seen with how she reacts to fellow group member Nina’s (Anna Kendrick) suicide and how she treats her kind housekeeper Silvana (Adrianna Barraza). “I hate it when suicides make it easy on the survivors,” she spews with sarcasm in the opening scene. With a husband who left her, and in such physical pain that she always has to lie horizontally in the passenger’s seat while barking orders at Silvana, Claire is one lonely, bitter, depressed woman.

One night, after popping a handful of Oxycodones and Robaxacets, Claire envisions Nina in a lucid dream. The dead woman taunts her and tries to convince her to give in to her own suicidal thoughts. As a way to deal with all of this, Claire begins to dig into the reasons behind Nina’s suicide. She visits the location of where it happened and manipulates her way into obtaining Nina’s address from the support group. When she visits Nina’s old house, she meets widower Roy (Sam Worthington) and, with cracked lives as a common denominator, the two begin to see each other on a platonic basis. Nina continues to make her strange appearances, and Claire continues to tunnel through her depression by using everyone around her.

We get the feeling that Tobin, Barnz and Aniston wanted to create a dark, deeply troubled figure with Claire. Aniston, for example, chose to not to wear any make-up for the role. It could be a fear of not wanting to create a larger-than-life persona, but Claire ends up being an inconsistently developed character. Her selfishness is noted on a regular basis, but overall, she’s a mixed bag of comedy, compassion, resentment and self-pity, to the point that she becomes too far removed from reality to truly resonate as a genuine person.

The concept of conversing with Nina becomes comical for all the wrong reasons, and is the biggest culprit responsible for the tonal issues in “Cake.” Yes, there are moments when the fabrication behind Claire’s arc breaks to reveal a real person, and the filmmaker’s have Aniston to thank for this, because it’s certainly not the bland dialogue or unremarkable events. Ultimately, however, a few chuckles can’t cover up the fact that this is a character study of a character not worth studying. [C-]

Catch up on all our coverage of the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival by clicking here.

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Haven’t seen film yet, but just wondering why it is that the momement a glam/pretty actress chooses to go SANS make-up in a movie, that the critics and industry types start talking OSCAR contender, lol…


I’m curious, is there any chance for an Oscar nomination for Jennifer Aniston? Even a nomination for Adriana Barraza?


dark horse for possible nomination??? what is that??? code for if she pays the right people enough they will toss down a nom but no chance at winning-cause if she wins for that boring epic fail of a pile whose only point worth remotely mentioning is just how awful Anustain looks without her hair extensions and her Glam Squad-


Thanks for an honest review about both Aniston and Cake, unlike another site that has been relentlessly pushing her for some type of award recognition as if someone has paid them to do so. "Ugly-ing up" for a role is not and should never be the main criteria to be lauded in an actor, as seems to be the situation with Aniston in Cake. Don't understand why the stile is set so low for her performances as compared to most other actors.

I think she has depended too long on repeating variations of her Friends character in most of the films she appears in to actually at this point in time be able to inhabit a true dramatic role and emote real believable emotions. It has to be quite difficult if not impossible to change what brought one success in a career spanning 25+ years.


So she's not get an Oscar nom because the movie is bad? What does that have to do with anything? As long as her performance is good/strong, it's an Oscar contender, regardless of how good/bad the other aspects of the film (direction, screenplay, etc.) were. What she's responsible for is her acting, and what should be taken in consideration when submitting the noms of the Best Actress category is the actresses' performances alone, not the quality of the films they were in.


I'm sorry but if Sandra Bullock (who I love) can get an Oscar for "The Blind Side", then I don't see why Jennifer Aniston can't, especially with a performance like that. The movie might not be everyone's cup of tea, but she is amazing in it. I saw grown men bowling like babies in the theatre.

Also, about this: "She’s a mixed bag of comedy, compassion, resentment and self-pity, to the point that she becomes too far removed from reality to truly resonate as a genuine person"…

Oh yes, cause genuine persons have only one dimension, they can't be a mix of many things in different grades… Give me a break! It is obvious that her character used to be a nice, funny, smart person, obviously a glib (don't forget that she was a lawyer) who lost everything and suffers emotionally and physically. Have you met people that have been through what she has? I have and they are like that. There are moments of self-pity, when they are in so much darkness that they wished they were dead, moments where they are more humorous, moments when they are more cruel, especially with the ones close to them and moments where they are more compassionate, especially when they see how their attitude might affect or be cruel to their beloved ones…


Jen can get a Best Actress Oscar nomination for cake.
I believe

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