Fran Hoepfner's Elevated Cinema: Cake

Fran Hoepfner is a comedian and writer in Chicago. She reviews films under the influence.

The Film: Cake

The Director: Daniel Barnz

The Year It Came Out: 2014

How I Watched It: Netflix

Have I Seen It Before?: Nope.

How High Was I?: Double “very”

Okay, So: If you are not familiar with the movie Cake then you might not know it as the film that came out at the end of last year where Rachel from Friends is serious. That’s right: The classic switch-up of you-knew-’em-from-laughing-but-now-guess-what-they’re-very-serious. When actors go serious, it’s like when middle school boys start swearing and talking about sex acts they know nothing about. That’s not to say Jennifer Aniston is bad. I never really watched Friends; so I don’t have an emotional attachment to Aniston. I am vaguely aware that she plays Rachel and is always wearing a black turtleneck with a haircut. That’s Friends. Regardless, Aniston’s doing a very good job of pretending to be the right fit for this movie. She’s got the scars and the no makeup and the weight gain but you can see all the seams on it.

This is a waste of drugs.

If you don’t know the premise of Cake, it’s relatively straightforward. Claire (Jennifer Aniston), a woman who suffers from chronic pain, becomes increasingly interested in another woman, Nina (Anna Kendrick), from her support group who recently committed suicide leaving behind a young husband and son. Does that sound like a dramatic movie? It should. It checks all the boxes.

Claire’s life is miserable. Cake is miserable! I thought, wow, this is a huge fucking bummer. This is a waste of drugs. Claire is lonely, and she’s very mean, and her whole body hurts all the time. She goes into a pool at night, and I felt my whole body get kind of fuzzy. That said, if the rest of Cake is the sound of gentle waves in a pool, then I am going to love Cake. The water is green, and I feel very aware of all of my cells.

Felicity Huffman is in this movie, and she looks beautiful. I wish Felicity Huffman appeared in more television shows or movies. Wow, Felicity! You gotta love her. Is she relevant? I am honestly not sure. I don’t know her name. She heads the support group, and every time she comes on screen I’m overwhelmed by her nice round glasses.

I’m simultaneously distracted by a scene early on in which a doctor writes a prescription for painkillers for Claire, and the doctor says “my daughter in college,” but the actress is very clearly in her early thirties at most. She is not old enough to have an 18-year-old! I’m furious, rather than quiet and sad and a little put off, and now I’m going to order Indian food.

Whereas I think weed has the ability to heighten a lot of cinema and what makes it good and flashy and fun, it also has the ability to heighten in quieter movies. In the way that I can see Jennifer Aniston acting, I can also feel Cake trying. Every scene feels like it was on a to-do list. I feel as if I spent the bulk of the movie pointing at my TV and saying “yes, I know” at every single point. At one point Claire starts up a relationship with Nina’s widower Roy (Sam Worthington, you know, from Avatar). She more or less stalks him and shows up at his home at different times, and each of those times he tells Claire: “I’m not bothered by how seemingly weird or awful you are” (paraphrased). Of course he’s not! Otherwise he’d have called the police! “Yes, I know,” I tell the television, as if teaching it about obvious life tells.

depending on your tolerance for Anna Kendrick and/or ghosts in movies.

The movie is certainly not completely awful. There are still a lot of nice things about Cake. Adriana Barraza plays Silvana, Claire’s maid, and the scenes between these two women are very well done. They have the most realistic and heartfelt relationship in the film. When they said kind or thoughtful words to each other, I found myself saying “yes, I know” in a much more empathetic way.

And sure! Anna Kendrick is a sassy ghost! She and Claire have heated nonsensical conversations about every other scene. All of the sentences are code for suicide and one after the other they sound increasingly incomprehensible. This could be a pro or con to the film depending on your tolerance for Anna Kendrick and/or ghosts in movies. I don’t know. I will tell you that at one point, Nina pushes Claire into her pool (in a dream sequence, obviously, ghosts aren’t corporeal as I had to remind myself while viewing), and there’s the soothing sound of water splashing. Hell yeah, Cake.

I don’t know if you should watch Cake. I don’t know that I should have watched Cake! Halfway through I began checking my phone, and then it feels like I never stopped. It’s so boring trying to watch people be serious. If you want to see a revolutionary Jennifer Aniston performance, you should watch Horrible Bosses while semi-buzzed on a MegaBus to Minnesota, okay?