When it’s awards season, many actors who want to be considered by their voting group generally choose serious movie topics that allow them to show the range of their acting abilities. Because I’m a SAG-AFTRA member, I get to vote for films that are up for a SAG Awards (on Sunday, 1/25). It’s one of the perks I like about be in an entertainment union. I mean DVD screeners show up in the mail, they email you download codes, and some movie companies offer streams of the movies on their website. In short, I’m soaking in movies — most of them I want to see.
One of the films that showed up early this week was “Cake,” starring Jennifer Aniston. Aniston plays Claire Bennett, a woman suffering from chronic pain, visible scars from an accident, depression, and a pretty serious addiction to prescription medication. With all that going on, Claire is not the nicest person in the room. In fact, her bitterness at the world is so deep that she’s almost a misanthrope. When we meet her she’s in a support group for chronic pain — where one of the members of the group recently commits suicide (Anna Kendrick as Nina Collins). While most of the members are trying to come to terms of the loss of their member, Claire launches into a rather grisly account of how Nina died — much to shock and dismay of her fellow group members.
For the entire film Claire is in agonizing pain. Pain so bad that she can’t sleep, barely has an appetite, cannot sit in a car (she has to lie down), is often screaming out just trying to get out of bed. Watching her throughout the movie trying to dull her physical and emotional pain with pills made the film quite abrasive and difficult to endure at times. It just seemed the story took a long time to get to why she was in such agony, obsessed with suicide, and just being a miserable person who is difficult to be around.
Aniston is quite good in the role, but because the character is so unlikable, it becomes difficult to care about her pain. At times, I felt like it would be better for her if she did kill herself because at least the pain would stop. But this is a movie where a certain arc is expected if people are going to pay money to sit in a dark theater and watch this drama play out. I’ll give the screenwriter credit for not ending the film with a typical Hollywood ending, but after 102 minutes of watching Aniston pop pills, being in agony and generally being angry with the world, I sure could have used a little lightness.