No ‘Friends’: Aniston impressive, raw in ‘Cake’

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In her most challenging and inspiring role since 2002’s “The Good Girl”, Jennifer Aniston triumphs in this heartfelt story about grief and moving on. Aniston plays Claire, a chronic pain sufferer dealing with the sudden death of a fellow support group member (Anna Kendrick) in Southern California. The former star of the hit TV series “Friends” from 1994-2004, delivers an impressive, raw performance in this film that’s both emotional and sad, but never depressing for the audience. Several twists and relationships in the storyline make “Cake” vastly enjoyable to watch and deeply moving to understand.

The back story of “Cake” points to a disheveled Aniston, absent her famous Rachel Haircut and stunning looks we’ve become so accustomed to seeing from the 45-year old actress. Trying to manage her personal grief and sadness, Claire searches for isolation from society and pain meds to stop the tears. All the while, Aniston’s broken down character looks to find answers to the unfair hand that she’s been dealt in the game of life. The exceptional cast in “Cake” perfectly complements and offsets Aniston’s antagonistic part, doubling as the film’s real support group for Claire. Together, everyone attempts to help Claire find strength and perspective in the hope that it brings an end to her chronic pain.

No one plays a bigger part in supporting Aniston, or helping to put things in perspective for Claire, than Adriana Barraza. An Academy Award nominee for 2006’s “Babel”, Barraza portrays Claire’s warmhearted Mexican housekeeper, Nina. With humor, humility and steadfast loyalty, Nina provides Claire—and the film—an earnest feeling and strong presence. The relationship between the two of them, and how their lives weave together, marks the film’s most poignant and satisfying moments.

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Adriana Barraza with Aniston.

“Cake” offers an honest and realistic look at grief as it hits someone unexpectedly in the heart and mind. The movie imparts the cruel difficulties that life can throw at us and the challenges it poses moving forward. Convincingly, it also takes viewers down the path towards resiliency and relationships. It deftly illustrates through personal perseverance how one woman is not only able to survive a tragic loss, but also capable of getting back on her feet to face, and live, another day.

Jennifer Aniston gives us the most compelling, emotional performance of her television and film career—one that makes it impossible to take your eyes off of her character, Claire. The extraordinary cast shines brightly to spotlight Aniston’s fine work. Combined, they elevate “Cake” from a movie about loss to a film about life.

Grade: A-

“Cake” is rated R with a running time of 1 hour and 38 minutes.

© 2015, Patrick. All rights reserved.



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