Jennifer Aniston plays a former lawyer and current bitch in Daniel Barnz’ self-conscious melodrama.


There's something wrong with Claire: Jennifer Aniston lets her hair down


Daniel Barnz' Cake is the indie cinema version of soft rock, which is great if you like that sort of thing. It’s emotional and very pretty, albeit dealing with the darker side of the American dream. Jennifer Aniston jettisons her usual sunny disposition to provide a piece of Serious Acting in the shape of Claire Bennett. And Claire Bennett is all a bit much: a wealthy, bitter, sardonic Los Angeles inhabitant who is profoundly scarred, both physically and emotionally.


In lieu of a terribly gripping story, scenarist Patrick Tobin withholds the hard facts of Aniston’s backstory and so drip-feeds fragments of exposition the better to lure us into her world of tragedy via every haunted sentence, look and revelation. But this is cheating: all the characters in the story know what happened to Claire, leaving only us, the audience, in the dark. So, Claire has scars all over her body, is constantly popping pills and is rude to pretty much everybody. But she’s a bitch with a Reason. Sit tight and we’ll eventually find out what that Reason is.


Cake might have worked better as black comedy or as a hard-hitting drama unfolded in a chronologically sensible manner. Or maybe not. At best, the film feels like a vehicle for the more serious side of Ms Aniston, at worst a self-conscious melodrama that struggles to have its cupcake and eat her whole.


Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Adriana Barraza, Mamie Gummer, Felicity Huffman, William H. Macy, Chris Messina, Lucy Punch, Britt Robertson, Anna Kendrick, Sam Worthington, Misty Upham.

Dir Daniel Barnz, Pro Ben Barnz, Jennifer Aniston, Kristin Hahn, Courtney Solomon and Mark Canton, Screenplay Patrick Tobin, Ph Rachel Morrison, Pro Des Joseph T. Garrity, Ed Kristina Boden and Michelle Harrison, Music Christophe Beck, Costumes Karyn Wagner.

Freestyle Releasing/After Dark Films/Echo Films/Cinelou Films-Warner Bros.
125 mins. USA. 2014. Rel: 20 February 2015. Cert. 12A.