HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:80
I vaguely remember the advertising going on around Oscar time, with “Cake” being put out on advertisements all the time in an effort to score the woman her first Oscar. I have a bad habit of wanting to loathe anything that comes up at the Oscars just out of principal, since so many of them are just tailor made to fit in that demographic. Much the same reason I didn’t watch the “Harry Potter” films till the 5th movie came out just because “everyone” fell in love with them and the market was saturated with the films, the books and the fans. Fast forward a few months and I see that “Cake” is finally coming out on Blu-ray and I decide it’s high time I watched it. It has a few moments of Oscar bait to it, but I ended up really enjoying the dark tale of a woman trying to find some meaning in a very pain filled life.
Claire (Jennifer Aniston) is a woman who’s dealing with enormous physical pain. Covered in scars from some sort of accidents, and popping pain pills left and right we can assume that she’s been through something that’s left her physically damaged. The movie doesn’t let us know just exactly WHAT happened to her at first, but rather lets the movie unravel at a steady pace until the big reveal. What we DO know is that she’s not exactly the better for her incident. Bitter, angry and spiteful, she’s dealing with debilitating chronic pain and loathes the hand she’s been dealt. To make things worse, she’s become so hateful that her support group has kicked her out because they can’t deal with the negativity and even her physical therapist is about to right her off. Her turning point comes in the form of a grieving widower named Roy Collins (Sam Worthington). Sam is actually the husband of one of Claire’s support group. One who just happened to commit suicide the month earlier.
Both Roy and Claire are wrecks. Claire due to her frustration and anger at having to live in constant pain, while Roy is living in hell dealing with the loss of his wife and having to raise a 5 year old son in the process. The two make an odd couple, finding friendship in midst of their pain and enjoying the frank honesty that each person gives the other. It doesn’t evolve into a romantic relationship (which I feared), but their hatred and anger gives them a bond and understanding that many other people who tried to help them couldn’t understand. While it’s not a “magical” film, Claire starts to see visions of Nina (Anna Kendrick, Roy’s departed wife) in her drug induced medication sessions, which creates an outlet for the audience to see the inner conflict and turmoil that exists under Claire’s angry façade. Frustratingly these moments, while interesting, tend to halt the story in its tracks and seems rather awkward at times.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=43657[/img]While Roy gives her someone to sound off against and allows for her to relax a little, the real personality changes come due to the kindness of Claire’s housekeeper, Silvana (Adriana Barraza), who works tirelessly to help her employer. Chipper to a fault, and sensitively loyal, Silvana is a constant support beam to Claire’s chaotically pain filled life and one of the few people that Claire shows any real empathy towards. There are a few moments that feel rough, mainly a conversation with a construction worker over Nina’s suicide, and a trip down to Mexico for some more pain meds, but overall the movie was a very well done tale about dealing with pain that, for once, isn’t physical. I’ve had to deal with chronic pain for several years due to life catching up with me in some weird ways and I can tell you, that no matter how cheesy some of Claire’s actions may be, I’ve felt most of them every bit as intensely as she did. Walking a mile in someone’s shoes does wonders for the perspective, and I am honestly curious what my take on the movie would have been before I was diagnosed with my own condition.
While the movie itself isn’t perfect, I have to say that this is the best performance by Jennifer Aniston to date. I’ve always seen her as Rachel from “Friends” for so many years, and while she’s had some good work in the past, this is her dramatic best. She looks, sounds and acts JUST like someone who actually has a condition like Claire’s and while she may be snotty and bitter, Jennifer can play that type of character to a T. I do chuckle they tried to make her look “frumpy” by taking away the makeup and having her dress down, but somehow Jennifer just can’t help but look pretty. One of those “Oscar Bait” techniques I mentioned before. Still, I enjoyed the film quite a bit and while it didn’t get Oscar nominated, was a great watch when in the mood for a drama.
Rated R for language, substance abuse and brief sexuality
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=43665[/img]More and more dramas these days are being framed in the scope 2.40:1 aspect ratio instead of the more common “drama” aspect ratios of 1.XX:1. Whether it be an action movie, or just a drama, 2.40:1 has always looked more cinematic to me (my own personal little thing) so seeing “Cake” in scope just made me smile. The picture itself is stellar, shot digitally it looks squeaky clean and full of nice warm colors. Blues and greens dominate the movie for the most part, but the bright red of Claire’s car and the bright dress that Nina wears in the hallucination all pop with an incredible brightness. Black levels stay very strong and showcase great shadow detail in the few dark sequences, and the level of fine detail during the rest of the movie is stellar, as one would expect from a modern day digital movie. An excellent image from beginning to end, it is a huge improvement over the DVD which I compared the same sitting.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=43673[/img]Fox has a lone 5.1 DTS-HD MA track available for us today and as expected, it’s a tad front heavy (most dramas are) and the majority of the heavy lifting is up there in the front 3 channels. Dialog is spot on perfect, with excellent vocals coming through and some nice, but limited atmospheric and directional changes amongst the mains. LFE is rather mild, but it is there to help along with some ambient noises like a car slamming, or Claire kicking the snot out of William H. Macy’s character. HOWEVER, it does kick you in the teeth several times with some serious walloping, such as when Claire wakes up out of a nightmare. Surround usage is solid, giving some nice backup noises, but as I said, it’s mainly the front channels that get the real work out here.
• The Icing on the Cake : Meet the Cast
• The Many Layers of "Cake" : Learning to Live Again
“Cake” is not a perfect film. In some ways it screams “Oscar Bait” and was marketed heavily towards trying to get Jennifer Anniston into an Oscar nomination, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s still a legitimately good movie (albeit with a few flaws). The story hits home, especially to myself, and the audio and video presentation are top notch. My only complaint here is that the extras are rather sparse for a film of this nature. I give this a solid thumbs up for an entertaining and rather moving film, especially if you are someone who has to deal with chronic pain, much like Claire.
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Felicity Huffman, Sam Worthington, William H. Macy
Directed by: Daniel Barnz
Written by: Patrick Tobin
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Runtime: 102 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: April 21st 2015
Buy Cake On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Check it out
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