Cake, the new film from director Daniel Barnz (Beastly, Won't Back Down) that opens on Friday at the Cedar Lee Theatre, begins with a particularly awkward scene. Claire (Jennifer Aniston) isn't coping well. She can barely walk since she had a few pins put into her leg after a debilitating accident. And her friend Nina (Anna Kendrick) has just committed suicide by jumping off a freeway overpass. At a therapy session where she and Nina's other friends talk about her suicide, Claire responds a bit differently to the grief and recalls how Nina's body wasn't discovered until the truck she fell on crossed the border in Mexico. "Way to go Nina," she says sarcastically. Her comments don't go over well, and she's asked to find another session she can join.
In the wake of her dismissal from the group, she begins retracing the steps that led to Nina's suicide and goes back to Nina's home where she meets her widower, Roy (Sam Worthington). And she starts popping more pills to deal with the psychological and physical pain, even going so far as to take a trip to Tijuana where she can get the drugs that she can't get stateside. Eventually, her condition worsens and she starts seeing Nina's ghost, who tells her how she had hoped to bake a cake for her son on his birthday. Claire then befriends Roy, and the two develop a platonic friendship and even visit Nina's grave together as they try to deal with their anger and pain.
Ultimately, the film functions better as a character study than a narrative. The story progresses at a snail's pace and never really reaches any kind of climax.Aniston's performance is certainly terrific, though. It's a real stretch for her and she embraces the role, even though she spends a good portion of the film in tears. But the film's despondent tone and circular nature keep it from having mass appeal. — Jeff Niesel