Let’s be clear: Jennifer Aniston isn’t the problem here. The once-and-forever Rachel has done a consistently impressive job of diversifying her profile outside of Friends—you don’t have to dig deep to find complex work in Office Space (1999), The Good Girl (2002) and Life of Crime (2013).
So it’s a drag to see Aniston doubling down on the kind of sour, embittered role Cake offers, one with very little latitude for her comic chops or her natural way with a seen-it-all sigh. She plays Claire, a brittle Los Angeles ex-lawyer suffering chronic muscle pain. She’s survived some horrible, unspecified accident that’s left scars on her face and limbs; Patrick Tobin’s infuriatingly coy script also parcels out the info that her young son has died, turning the film into a morbid guessing game.
Cake chokes you on its self-seriousness, even as it trots out potentially interesting supporting players to weather Claire’s unresolved grief, like a hunky widower (Sam Worthington) who needs cheering up or a long-suffering Mexican maid (Adriana Barraza). Aniston might have redeemed this, had uninspired director Daniel Barnz allowed her to cut against the somberness and turn Claire’s pill-popping haze into something darkly comic. You wait for her big guilt purge, and she’s shortchanged on that, too.
Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf
Cast and crew