I’ve never seen a movie quite like Cake before, and I’d like to take a minute to talk about the women in this film.
Jennifer Aniston completely submerges herself in the role of Claire, a woman suffering from every kind of pain imaginable. Many people have said that Cake is what will finally make America stop thinking of Aniston as Rachel Greene, because Claire is nothing like the bubbly, fashionable, fun Rachel whom Aniston played on Friends from 1994-2004. The truth is, we never get to see the woman Claire was prior to tragedy befalling her. For all we know, Claire is Rachel. Cake is a portrait of a human being in such a state of turmoil that she has been stripped of what made her the woman she once was. Aniston grits her teeth and charges through the script, causing a heartwrenching portrayal of a former mother, wife, friend. What is she now? Someone who simply gets through the day. Perhaps my favorite thing about Aniston in this film is she so well represents the truth of agony. If you’re lucky enough to have never experienced neverending pain, you’ll feel a little more enlightened on the subject after leaving this film.
Claire has visions of Nina (Anna Kendrick), a girl she knows from support group who has recently committed suicide. I absolutely loved Kendrick’s unapologetic performance. Nina appears to be proud of her final act, even seeming to taunt Claire and coach her through the suicide attempt she’s been contemplating for awhile. I’d never root for someone to end their own life, but Aniston is so brilliantly tormented in this film that you almost feel you want her to experience peace any way she possibly can.
Claire’s housekeeper Silvana, played with honesty and vigor by Adriana Barraza, cares deeply for her employer. She doesn’t just cook, clean, and care for Claire – she’ll drive her over the border and help her smuggle the painkillers she desperately needs back home. The chemistry with Aniston is off the charts, especially in a pivotal scene in which Silvana loses it, delivering a rant in Spanish about how much she has had it with Claire. And yet, the next day, there she is with Claire on another questionable drive. She doesn’t do it simply because she’s paid to – there’s a compassion within her that most people don’t have.
Overall, Cake is the kind of movie that hinges on the performances of these women. Without their fulgent talent, we wouldn’t care. This movie doesn’t explain every detail of the past to its audience because it does not have to. The grief and loss, frustration and anguish is all over the faces of the actors who bring the film to life, and that is enough for me to be taken away by it.