New To Blu: Cake

A transformative Jennifer Aniston does a career u-turn with Cake.

"I love three things.
And sex.
What did you bring me?"
After years of comedic roles and a never ending string of silly movies that kept her on a steady path of stagnation, Jennifer Aniston finally breaks the streak with an emotional characterization in Cake. This is one of her only straight dramatic roles and she undoubtedly proves her worth. It strips her of her normal physical presentation and begs her to abandon everything she's learned as an actress to become a seething portrait of obsession and painful ambiguity. This is not the overdone, made up, beautiful Jennifer Aniston, but is a scarred, makeup-less, physically awkward mess of a woman that is leaps and bounds beyond her normal screen persona. Under the guidance of the man that directed Beastly, Aniston is failed in various ways. 

Besides the heavy handed and often times messy script, she succeeds wholeheartedly with one of the better performances of her career and an adaptive flair that will hopefully guide her to much better things. On the other end of the spectrum, most of the actors surrounding her seem lost and don't have the same precision feel for the movie. Sam Worthington is absolutely out of place, Chris Messina is underused, and William H. Macy is nothing more than a 30 second bit thrown in for good measure. Yes, the story is centered on Aniston's Claire Bennett, but without a strong support system, she remains almost too much of a focal point. Good dramas should not rest on one character only, but should use the full cast to help build the foundation. Sadly, so much attention is paid to Aniston that the other characters fall by the wayside. 

Cake is an excursion into the life of a woman that has experienced a violent turn which left her the victim of chronic pain. Aniston plays the role to a tee and never loses sight of how deeply entrenched she is in this character. Whenever the mildly boring screenplay veers off into needlessly melodramatic territory, Aniston somehow pulls back the reigns and pushes past the mediocrity of the poorly planned script and consistently proves her worth in her newly found love of drama. In that aspect, Cake supercedes many of today's other melancholy cinematic efforts. But there's just something missing here. The story remains too mysterious and never fleshes out the details that audiences want to know. 
"I'm all dressed up and
ready to play The Exorcist!!!"

As a character study, Cake allows Aniston to grow into a fully fledged dramatic leading lady. You can feel her pushing to expand her horizons as an actress and can taste her willingness to break the barriers of her former comedic self. She succeeds beyond anything I would have ever expected. It's just sad that her concerted effort was put into a film that fails to reinforce the growth she is so longing for. If you're looking for a fair movie with a really good performance that lets Aniston demolish her previous, less studious work as an actress, see Cake

Aniston didn't get the Oscar nod she so deserved for this movie but I personally feel that the lack of strong direction cost her the nomination. With a more focused and experienced director mixed with stronger support characters, Cake could've set her up a successful chance at a little gold statue. Hopefully she sticks with it and doesn't fall back into her usual trappings.