Friday, 23 January 2015

REVIEW - CAKE (DANIEL BARNZ)


Here is a good movie undone by its will to be a bad movie. That sounds like a curious proposition, but it's actually quite clear and quite comprehensible when one considers what happens to a movie when concessions are made in the pursuit of commercial interests. As an examination on the life of a woman living with chronic pain, and crippling grief to boot, Cake would be an entirely satisfactory drama, only it's basically not that at all. In Daniel Barnz's direction and in Patrick Tobin's screenplay, her difficulties rank second in their concerns behind what kooks and quirks they can employ to relieve us, the audience, from the pain we might experience in witnessing her pain. Fuck our pain, that's not what film is about; it's likely a great deal more painful to witness the strained mediocrity they so determinedly strive for. Playful tics and faux-artistic notions dominate Barnz's mise-en-scene, swiftly overtaking what honest, affecting depictions of a life lived under horrible, inescapable physical and emotional duress reside in this film's feeble heart. Not that anything about Cake is especially offensive - on the contrary, it's Cake's inoffensiveness that hampers it so. At its best, though, it's still just an excuse for its cast to show off, which is a limp premise for a film to possess under any circumstances. Luckily, the cast is good enough that it's actually the only thing worth watching in Cake, and it certainly is worth watching, with strong work from Jennifer Aniston and Adriana Barraza in particular.