Cake Blu-ray Review
To say that CAKE, the new movie starring Jennifer Aniston, is a difficult watch is an understatement. This movie, about living with chronic pain (and actually a lot more than that) is a beautiful, disturbing, intimate character study. The camera is on star Aniston for the vast majority of the film’s one hundred two minutes and a more mature Aniston is, quite surprisingly to me, a revelation as Claire. She deftly portrays a woman staring into the abyss and the emotionless, wanton destruction that comes with feeling so detached from a world that no longer makes sense.
All we know about Claire at the onset of CAKE is that she appears to be in immense pain, she is possibly clinically depressed, and that she is apparently addicted to all manner of prescription pain medications. A voicemail from a man, Claire seems to know him, he doesn’t want to see her when he picks up his stuff from the house… Claire can’t find enough medication despite having bottles hidden everywhere throughout her home… Claire sniping, picking at those around her with more emotional range than she… in short, someone who is in pain, who actively destroys everything around her, who can not seem to decide if she should take her own life or continue to maintain in the drug-fueled haze that has become her life.
Speaking as someone who has experienced mental illness in my life, I can completely understand this portrayal and it is terrifying in its accuracy. The filmmakers carefully construct a narrative where it’s hard to care for Claire but it is also intensely difficult NOT to care for her. Every time she comes close to feeling something she seeks the solace of her medications. Soon it is all she knows – just maintaining from one point in time to the next… but when someone in her support group commits suicide, Claire is finally forced to look at herself, to make decision about whether she wants to continue living or begin more actively pursuing death and the peace she hopes it will bring.
The filmmakers made some great choices with casting in this film. Aniston, as one of the lead producers on the project, was obviously passionate about it and gives as much to her performance here as I’ve ever seen from an actress. Is this my favorite movie or performance of the year? No. But is it arguably the best? I think so. Top it off with a surprisingly strong turn from Sam Worthington, the actor who couldn’t be on screen enough in the 18 months surrounding AVATAR but who has since kind of disappeared from the silver screen.
Worthington plays the husband and father left behind and his role, while smaller, touched me just as strongly as Aniston’s Claire. CAKE is careful about this – it doesn’t try to step outside of the universe it creates – giving us a myopic and cynical viewpoint that is compounded by our confused feelings for Claire. The move pays off for Claire and Roy (Sam) by giving us a context within which to view their very different pains, the similar ways in which they deal with them, and their viewpoints on life.
In the end, CAKE is a depressing but beautiful film. It’s not the type of movie you’re going to watch 10 times but you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t watch it at least once. Aniston’s performance, as well as the strong supporting cast, is more than worth the time. The pacing is a little slow at times but it generally suits the narrative.
Video: (1080p Widescreen 2.42:1) The video presentation of CAKE is jarring and immersive thought the color pallet is somewhat muted.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The audio for CAKE is fairly simple but competently presented.
The Many Layers of CAKE: Learning to Live Again (03:33) This short featurette focuses on the difficulties of chronic pain that are so painstakingly presented in CAKE, while giving some snippets about the characters.
The Icing on the CAKE: Meet the Cast (03:29) This featurette focuses on the cast of CAKE. It’s primarily the cast and crew talking about how amazing Jennifer Aniston is, which is true but it is boring after a few moments. It’s sad, really, because her performance really is beautiful; but the title of this special feature just isn’t true.
The CAKE Blu-ray also features the Theatrical Trailer and a Digital HD UltraViolet Digital Copy of the film.