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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Cake (Blu-ray)
Cake (Blu-ray)
20th Century Fox // R // April 21, 2015 // Region A
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by William Harrison | posted May 2, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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THE FILM:

It is appropriate that the theatrical poster for Cake features only a pensive-looking Jennifer Aniston, hair blowing across her face. The same preternatural beauty is there, but this time it is slightly obscured by scars and age lines. Aniston plays a woman devastated by chronic pain and the loss of her young son, and almost solely pilots Daniel Barnz's drama. She plays against type here, and quite well, and that alone is enough to recommend Cake, which is mostly frosting. This is certainly a prestige vehicle for Aniston, and one I hope will spur many more excellent dramatic performances from the actress. This story is fairly shallow, and supporting players Sam Worthington and Anna Kendrick tread water in the background. Barnz's (Won't Back Down) direction is inconsistent, but Aniston's work is enough to forgive these flaws.

The film opens mid therapy session at a chronic pain support group. One of the members, Nina (Anna Kendrick), has committed suicide, and the remaining group members individually verbalize their feelings about her death. Claire Bennett (Aniston) shocks the group by recounting the gory details of the act and chastising Nina for selfishly leaving husband Roy (Worthington) and son Casey (Evan O'Toole) to fend for themselves. Claire simply exists, painfully, after a car accident crippled her and killed her young son. Claire's ex-husband (Chris Messina) is tired of her self-pity and pain medication abuse, and only housekeeper Silvana (Adriana Barraza) continues to stand behind Claire. In her Oxycontin haze, Claire begins visualizing a caustic Nina, who is none too pleased when Claire initiates contact with Roy and begins a friendship.

There is not a whole lot of depth to the story, but Patrick Tobin's script has a healthy dose of sharp humor, mostly from the mouths of Aniston and Barraza, who feud like sisters and take a risky road trip to Tijuana so Claire can buy narcotics. Cake may not be the most accurate picture of a woman in the throws of addiction, but it certainly gives it a college try. There is an uneasy balance between sober Claire, medicated Claire and detoxing Claire, and Aniston injects the same wry awareness into each scenario. Hijinks like a stolen car and border search are a little silly, but Cake is not trying to emulate Requiem for a Dream.

Aniston is excellent in scenes where she succumbs to grief. Her recovery plateaus because drugs and denial are easier than working through tremendous physical and mental pain, and the ghostly Nina encourages Claire to give up, swallow a bullet and end it all. Kendrick is not around much, but she is a nice diversion. Worthington is similarly underused, but gives a quieter, more intimate performance than I have seen from him. There are a couple of scenes where Barnz loses track of his narrative and Aniston is left to pick up the slack. She does so admirably, but a tighter focus may have taken Cake from good to great. This is a performance without vanity, and Aniston proves an able and compelling dramatic actress.

THE BLU-RAY:

PICTURE:

Fox presents Cake in its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 with this 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer. The digitally shot image is sharp and detailed, with life-like texture and impressive fine-object clarity. The color saturation is dialed back somewhat, but skin tones are accurate. Black levels and shadow detail are strong, and I noticed no issues with aliasing or compression artifacts.

SOUND:

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is restrained but effective, with clear dialogue and light ambient effects that waft into the surrounds. There are a couple of surreal sequences with some action effects and subwoofer support, and the proceedings are nicely balanced with the score. English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles are included.

PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:

This single-disc release is packed in an eco-case that is wrapped in a slipcover. There is a code to redeem an UltraViolet HD digital copy. Extras are slim: The Many Layers of Cake (3:33/HD) showcases the interesting story of stuntwoman Stacy Courtney, who suffered through periods of debilitating pain. The Icing on the Cake: Meet the Cast (3:28/HD) is an EPK-style bit about the actors. Finally, you get the Theatrical Trailer (2:24/HD).

FINAL THOUGHTS:

It is not exactly a criticism to say Jennifer Aniston's performance is far and away the best thing about Cake, as she really sells the role of a woman suffering from chronic pain and the memory of her dead son. Daniel Barnz's drama is light on story, but Aniston's performance and a healthy dose of sharp humor make Cake worth watching. Hopefully, this is the first of many strong dramatic performances from the actress. Recommended.

William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.

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