AM At The Movies: ‘Cake’

Above: Jennifer Aniston in her critically acclaimed role in the drama 'Cake'
Above: Jennifer Aniston in her critically acclaimed role in the drama 'Cake'

Given that one of the lead narratives heading into awards season was the lack of truly standout performances from female actors, Jennifer Aniston’s exclusion from the Best Actress category for the upcoming 87th Academy Awards means one of two things:

(1) Marion Cotillard, Felicity Jones, Julianne Moore, Rosamund Pike and Reese Witherspoon must have absolutely killed it in their respective roles, or
(2) The Academy had no interest in nominating “Rachel from Friends

Aniston is tremendous as the central figure in director Daniel Barnz’ Cake, playing a woman dealing with chronic pain and a complicated group of demons and hangups. While it’s easy for detractors to suggest the 45-year-old actress is garnering praise because she “lets herself be unpretty” in the role and “it’s her first real dramatic effort,” it’s not Aniston’s appearance or the tenor of the film that makes her shine here – it’s her performance. (Note: she’s also done several other “nonglamourous” roles to date and been quite good in them too.)

She’s a pain in the ass – a drug-seeking, unappreciative, “you don’t know what it’s like to be me” type that has to figure out her issues, but isn’t quite sure if she wants to and Aniston carries all of that beautifully. Nothing about her performance feels forced or built for Oscar season; there’s no massive breakdown or fits of sobbing, nor is there a violent outburst or anything over the top.

All you get is a woman dealing with a complex collection of difficult issues on a day-to-day basis trying to figure out if she wants anything more from life.

There are some strong performances in support of Aniston here as well, starting with Adriana Barraza as her underappreciated, ultra-caring housekeeper/right hand, Silvana. Barraza, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the SAG, Golden Globes and Oscars for her performance in Babel, gets a moment to shine late in the film with a furious Spanish monologue that is equal part comedic and completely understandable.

The great Felicity Huffman is also sharp (as always) as the leader of Aniston’s chronic pain support group.

As a film, Cake isn’t for everyone – it deals with some challenging subjects with dark humour rather than melodrama and kind of just meanders along without any real high spots, but it is absolutely worth seeing for Aniston’s performance alone.

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte is a freelance journalist based in Abbotsford, British Columbia, where he lives with his wife and dog. In addition to his work here, he writes about sports for Complex Canada and covers the UFC for various outlets. His mom also still tells him what to do on a regular basis, even though he’s nearly 40. He tweets from @spencerkyte.

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