Today I saw Cake, starring Jennifer Aniston and Adriana Barraza.
Claire Bennett (Aniston) suffers from chronic pain. After a debilitating car accident, she becomes a different woman: bitter, angry, stiff and mean.
Silvana (Barraza) is the sympathetic housekeeper/caregiver who worked for her prior to the event. She does what she can to ease the suffering, and seems to be the only one around who hasn't given up on her (Claire's kind husband has since moved out).
Mrs. Bennett, as Silvana calls her, goes through all the motions of coping with her ailment: she attends a therapy group; shows up for swimming therapy and takes her medicine. Actually, she takes too much medicine, as evidenced by hiding pills behind paintings and forcing Silvana to take her to Mexico for additional prescriptions. Quite frankly, she's a mess. But she knows it and doesn't seem to care.
Her situation takes a different shape when her friend Nina (Anna Kendrick), commits suicide. Claire suddenly has something else to focus on, and that focus manifests into visits to the death site and time spent with Nina's surviving family. The question is: does she want to learn about it so she can build the courage to go through with it herself, or attempt to get better in spite of it?
The journey Claire takes isn't easy, and Aniston is so phenomenal in the role, you'll start to feel your muscles ache as you shift in your theater seat. Her communication of the pain—both physical and mental—is nearly tangible it's so real.
In fact, after seeing this, and remembering Aniston years ago in Friends With Money and The Good Girl, I wish she'd pursue more dramatic roles, preferably with scripts as great as this one.
So let's talk about the writing by Patrick Tobin: the dialogue is authentic, the scenarios believable and the plot's not even close to formulaic. The pace mirrors real life in that it speeds up sometimes and goes frustratingly slow at others. We're never sure where Claire is going, because she isn't either.
At heart, we're asked to examine how we react when confronted with the unthinkable and how that reaction determines how or if we'll recover from it.
Go see the film for Aniston's performance, and be reminded that most of us have it very easy.