Saturday, April 13, 2024

Jennifer Aniston Finally Makes a Real Movie and Divides Critics


Let them eat “Cake.” That seems to be the theme of yesterday’s premiere of “Cake,” a designer indie movie conceived to get Jennifer Aniston back into the world of acting. To that end, the film works: Aniston is very good. She’d be better if the movie were stronger, but that’s not the point. In the meantime, I see that everyone is divided about whether “Cake” has enough nutrition.

For most of the time as Claire, Aniston is padded to look like she doesn’t have a killer bod. Her hair is greasy and unkempt. She doesn’t wear glam make up, but added to her face are cosmetic scars to indicate she’s been in an accident. The director Daniel Barnz (real name Bernstein, he’s not a rapper or a skateboarder) does everything he can to make Aniston look stripped down and unplugged with just a hint that she could be hot at any moment.

Claire is a lawyer who’s estranged from her husband, played by the ubiquitous Chris Messina. (Did anyone think that after “Vicki Cristina Barcelona” and “Julie and Julia” Messina would be in every film?) Something’s happened, and in time we infer that her child has died. That plus the scars equals a car accident. Now Claire, isolated in her house, depends on her Mexican housekeeper (Adrianna Barazza). She’s also obsessed with the suicide of a fellow chronic pain support group member (Anna Kendrick) to the point where she befriends her husband (Sam Worthington from “Avatar”).

What can I say? I like Jennifer Aniston. If she were really unleashed as a sardonic bitch– what Claire is supposed to be– she’d win some awards. There are times in “Cake” when it seems as though as she’s going to go for it. But I guess there’s so much riding on the Big Picture of her career as a Movie Star that she’s not allowed to go all the way. What a shame.

Suffice to say that Claire will not become an unsympathetic character. Considering she’s a serious pill popper who drinks like crazy, there are possibilities of taking her in great directions. But they are not going to happen. In the end, Claire is allowed to do her hair, put on some lipstick, and be identified as a victim.

Will Aniston get an Oscar nomination? I have no idea. She does get credit for doing this after making a ton of mostly forgettable comedies. She can do more, this proves it. Maybe she’ll keep going.

PS Cameos from real life acting couple Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy, and Mamie Gummer– all underused.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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