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Film / Cake (2014)

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Cake is a 2014 American independent drama film, directed by Daniel Barnz and written by Patrick Toblin.

Jennifer Aniston stars as Claire Bennett, a chronic pain sufferer left partially disabled after a car accident that killed her son. The film opens some time after a woman in her support group, Nina (Anna Kendrick), has committed suicide, and follows Claire's attempts to deal with both that and the grief of her accident, as well as her Odd Friendship with her housekeeper Silvana (Adriana Barraza). Sam Worthington, Felicity Huffman, William H. Macy, Lucy Punch and Britt Robertson also star.

Not to be confused with the TV series, band or webcomic.

Cake provides examples of:

  • All There in the Script: The other women in the support group, as well as Leonard, the person whose car crash caused the whole plot.
  • Amicable Exes: Jason and Claire appear to be separated (she still refers to him as her husband) and he seems to be living somewhere else post-accident.
  • Bathos:
    • Silvana catching Claire trying to kill herself is played with some edge of comedy, particularly the fact that she rants in Spanish. The scene gets interrupted when they discover the car being towed.
      Silvana: That's all we need!
    • Claire goes over to Roy's house in the middle of the night just to see him again. She claims she thought he looked depressed earlier. He finds this Actually Pretty Funny.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Roy sports a rather wild looking beard that suggests he hasn't shaved since Nina's death.
  • Beauty Inversion: Jennifer Aniston (who would go on to be named World's Most Beautiful Woman in People Magazine a couple of years later) gained weight, stopped wearing makeup, and generally looked dumpy for the film — completely appropriate for a pain-stricken, grieving woman full of anger.
  • Birds of a Feather: Claire and Roy both leave their support groups because they're grumpier and more aggressive in dealing with their grief.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Claire has her moments. Notably when giving a lift to a runaway teen, she says she got disabled by "my parachute failed to open and I got dropped 10,000 feet."
  • Dead Person Conversation: Claire frequently imagines that she's having these with Nina.
  • Driven to Suicide: Claire is tempted too many times throughout the film - walking into her backyard pool in the middle of the night, jumping into her local pool while holding weights and lying down on the train tracks. She ultimately doesn't go through with it.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Claire is often seen with a glass of wine as a way of coping.
  • Ethnic Menial Labor: Silvana is Mexican and acts as Claire's housekeeper. Claire also appears to have a Mexican gardener.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The film opens in a support group after Nina has killed herself. All the other women there say heartfelt things about Nina. Claire's introduction has her describing the gory bits of the suicide in great detail, and she also applauds Nina for the pain her suicide caused her family, as Claire doesn't like suicide to be easy on survivors.
  • Extreme Doormat: Silvana puts up with a lot of grief from Claire, partially out of affection for her, but mostly due to this. Her daughter calls her as much.
  • Fan Disservice: Claire showing her legs isn't played as a fanservice Leg Focus scene due to the scars she got from her car accident.
  • Foil: Nina is a clear one to Claire. Even in the first scene, her cheerful and well-loved reputation is immediately contrasted with Claire's bitterness. In the Dead Person Conversations however, it's hinted that she was actually a Stepford Smiler. Both characters lives are defined by tragedy; Nina's suicide affects her husband and son, while the death of Claire's son heavily impacts her in the present day.
  • Friendship Moment: When some of Silvana's old friends are clearly making her feel bad, Claire stands up for her and helps her out of the restaurant.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Claire has a small scar on her chin as a souvenir of the car accident.
  • Grief-Induced Split: In the time since losing their son in a car accident, Claire and Jason have separated.
  • Hidden Depths: Claire parodies this with Becky - saying "someone's taken a Shakespeare class".
  • Hollywood California: The Orange County variety - with the film hitting the 'boring middle-class suburbia' points. There's also a runaway teen who's trying to get to Los Angeles to become an actress.
  • Hope Spot: Claire having Roy and Casey over for lunch shows her finally making an effort to improve her life. Then the man who killed her son shows up, sending her even further off the wagon.
  • Implied Love Interest: There seems to be something of a spark between Roy and Claire; though they never have sex, they do connect emotionally somewhat and have scenes that imply a romantic attraction.
  • Irony:
    • Claire and Silvana buy prescription drugs over the counter in Mexico. They get stopped at the border - for the laundry detergent they also bought.
    • Silvana finally has enough and chews Claire out when she sees her lying on the railway tracks. The irony here is that Claire has finally made a conscious effort to get better.
  • Lampshaded Double Entendre: When Claire's physiotherapist asks her to spread her legs a little wider.
    Claire: Shouldn't we go on a date first?
  • Latin Lover: Early in the film, Claire has sex with a young Latino man Arturo, who does her gardening.
  • Lonely Together: Both Roy and Claire find no comfort at their support groups and bond over losing Nina.
  • The Lost Lenore: Nina naturally is this for her husband Roy.
  • Maybe Ever After: Roy mentions that he's considering moving, which puts doubt on whether he and Claire will stay in touch.
  • Meta Casting: The media has often loved to paint Jennifer Aniston as a huge Woobie with a mess of a personal life - especially when it comes to children. So it seems oddly fitting that she be chosen to play Claire.
  • Mood Whiplash: The pleasant, mellow scene of Claire having Roy and Casey over for lunch takes a sharp u-turn when the man who killed Claire's son shows up.
  • Must Make Amends:
    • Claire buys Annette - the head of the support group - a bottle of vodka to apologise for her behaviour. She also apologises to Bonnie, her physiotherapist.
    • Leonard, the man driving the other car, tries to do this for the accident. It doesn't go well.
  • Nice Guy: Jason clearly still cares about Claire and is also suffering from the accident, as pointed out by Silvana during her rant; he also wanted to take care of Claire, but she drove him away and repeatedly treated him coldly afterwards. In the end, he returns a large picture of Claire and their son, which moves a thankful Claire to tears.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Claire at times is nice to her housekeeper - though it's implied she was much nicer before the accident.
  • No Ending: The last scene is Claire and Silvana at the graveyard, laying flowers on Nina's grave. Claire has attempted to make amends with Roy and is shown deciding to sit up on the car chair instead of lying down. While it shows she's trying to really get better, most threads aren't really resolved.
  • Odd Friendship: Claire makes friends with Nina's husband - a woman she barely knew - and Roy says Nina never talked about her.
  • Older Than They Look: Claire is surprised when she discovers that Nina was 31 when she died. Her actress Anna Kendrick was 29 at the time.
  • Old Maid: When Silvana meets up with some old friends from school, they just ask if her daughter has married yet. The fact that she's a qualified nurse goes in one ear and out the other.
  • One-Hour Work Week: Averted. Both Claire and Roy are on career breaks as a result of their traumas.
  • Posthumous Character: Nina is already dead when the film begins, but the movie is largely about how Claire and Roy are dealing with her suicide. She also appears in Dead Person Conversations.
  • Pull the I.V.: Claire painfully yanks the IV out of her arm, begging for "no more drugs" after having a nightmare about Nina committing suicide.
  • Rage Breaking Point: Silvana seeing Claire lying on the train tracks is what pushes her to snap.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Silvana gives Claire one after she catches one of her suicide attempts. In Spanish no less.
    Silvana: You want to kill yourself, then kill yourself!
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Downplayed. Claire has her hair done for lunch with Roy and Casey, which Roy compliments her on. It's also the only part of the movie where Jennifer Aniston wears any make-up.
  • Slice of Life: A particularly gloomy example. The film's main point is to show Claire's current life and how she's coping with her grief.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Leonard only appears in one short scene, but his car crash with Claire is the cause of all her problems, and his attempt to apologize leads to her third-act crash into rock bottom.
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Claire is very cold and distant to everyone. She shows little bits of affection and vulnerability to several characters once they get close to her however.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Becky, the runaway teen Claire gave a lift to, steals Claire's purse after making her the cake.

Alternative Title(s): Cake