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20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 4/21/2015
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/28/2015
While most films exist solely for entertainment (if that), some movies have a message. That is, there is an important point which the film wants to get across, usually pertaining to a social issue. The key here is how the movie gets its message across. Some movies really drive the point home, jumping up and down and waving their arms to ensure that you notice the message. On the other hand, some movies weave the message into the story in a more subtle way, so that it's undeniably there, but it's not knocking you over the head. This is the vibe I got from Cake, a small drama which I found to have a message which is very topical.
Claire Bennett (Jennifer Aniston) is a miserable person. Her face is covered in scars and she is in constant pain. She technically lives alone, but her maid, Silvana (Adriana Barraza) is her constant companion and chauffeur. Claire is addicted to her pain medication, and she will go to most any lengths to get more. Claire tried attending a chronic pain support group, but she was asked to leave due to her bad attitude. But, not before she learned that one of the members, Nina (Anna Kendrick), had committed suicide. Claire becomes obsessed with this woman's death. First, she gets details about how Nina killed herself. Then, she visits Nina's husband, Roy (Sam Worthington), to find out more about the woman. Researching Nina's act makes Claire wonder if she should do it herself. But, getting out and meeting the people involved also forces Claire to confront her past.
You may not be aware of this, but there is an epidemic of opiate pain medicine abuse in the United States. Patients are given these powerful drugs by a doctor for a pain issue, and they find themselves getting hooked. Others steal or buy these medications for recreational use and find that they can't live without the drugs. In either situation, when the prescription pain relievers aren't available, some individuals turn to street drugs like heroin in order to get their fix. Claire doesn't quite go to those lengths, but she is an addict and we see that she is very ritualistic about her pills and she certain takes extreme measures to ensure that she gets more. Was it the intention of Writer Patrick Tobin and Director Daniel Barnz for Cake to have a message about opiate abuse? Or was this my takeaway because of my familiarity with this problem? I'm not sure, but I truly liked the way that the film makes it very clear that Claire is an addict, but it doesn't rub our faces in it. Also, we observe first hand what she does to get the drugs without it becoming a crime film or farcical. You can watch the movie with the understanding that Claire has a problem, without catching the overarching point that Claire is not alone in this situation.
Cake may handle that part of the film with some tact, but in other areas, it's not afraid to take chances. Right out of the gate, Claire is unlikable. Not only is she a pill-popper, she is hateful to everyone around her -- she actually seems to enjoy picking fights in her support group. While we see her pay Silvana for her work, Claire also clearly takes advantage of the woman's kind-hearted nature, and her attitude towards the other woman vacillates between servant and friend. Add to this the fact that Claire is self-destructive and you've got a challenging character. This is partly due to the fact that the movie takes its time rolling out Claire's story. As we learn more about how she got her scars, why she's in pain, and what she lost in her life, Claire herself is undergoing a transformation. As the movie proceeds, Claire and the viewer meet in the middle, and while she's still very coarse, we understand her.
If you're thinking that Cake doesn't sound like a very fun movie, that's because it's not. However, it is a successful drama which, without going over the top, shows how debilitating chronic pain can be to a person. Aniston doesn't go the full Monster route here, but she certainly looks haggard, and she does a good job portraying a very bitter and biting woman. If anything, Cake pulls some punches and gets a little too sentimental at times. But, it should make you appreciate the fact that tragic event can leave many types of scars on a person.
Cake eventually reveals where the title comes from on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 32 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look fine and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good, which helps us to see Claire's scars, and the depth is appropriate for a drama on Blu-ray Disc. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.6 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The freeway scenes provide some nice stereo and surround effects, and these show good separation. A flashback scene offers effective subwoofer action.
The Cake Blu-ray Disc contains a few extra features. "The Many Layers of Cake: Learning to Live Again" (4 minutes) has Aniston commenting on her character, but we also hear from Stunt Coordinator Stacy Courtney who suffered an accident from which it took years to recuperate and who gave Aniston notes on her performance. "The Icing on the Cake: Meet the Cast" (3 minutes) is an odd title for this extra, as it focuses solely on Aniston, although there are comments from Worthington and Kendrick. The final extra is a THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.
Review Copyright 2015 by Mike Long