Oscar-fuelled or Oscar-snubbed?
Cake Film Review
Driven by a surprisingly powerful performance from Jennifer Aniston, Cake doesn’t really earn its stripes as a veritable Oscar contender, despite often feeling like that was the sole purpose behind it.Indeed it’s a shame that the film so earnestly strives to earn its star some credibility – in a career stuffed to breaking point with the equivalent to Adam Sandler’s trademark movies (and that’s more of a compliment than some of Aniston’s filmography deserves, The Good Girl notwithstanding) – because the truth is that it has plenty of potential to impress without being just an Oscar campaign. The tale posits Aniston as a weary, broken and supremely bitter individual who attends chronic pain group therapy and spits bile at just about anyone and anything she encounters. She’s got an ex-husband, and probably plenty of ex-friends somewhere, and has a maid/carer who goes above and beyond to tolerate the abuse and disregard she manifestly. And the only thing she appears to take an interest in is the apparent suicide of one of the members of her group.Aniston does a solid job in the lead role, although being a world-class b*tch doesn’t always feel all that far from her comfort zone, and the story manages to avoid spoon-feeding you every revelation, instead allowing your discoveries about this character to feel a little more natural. In fact it’s of particular credit to the filmmakers that they not only manage to elicit such an impressive performance from Aniston but also from Sam Worthington (whose indie work, in films like this and Texas Killing Fields, appears to be so much more tolerable than his blockbuster fare). Perhaps they shouldn’t have populated quite so many supporting roles with actors known more for their comedic work (and the hallucinations are a wildly out of place misstep) but the acerbic wit is often a saving grace in what is otherwise quite a suffocating piece.
Blu-ray Picture Quality
Cake hits UK Blu-ray complete with a surprisingly impressive video presentation, framed in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio.
Detail is largely excellent, with fine skin textures and superior observation of the subtle scars that play an all-too important part in the story. Clarity impresses at every stage, bringing forward fine close-ups, wonderful mid-ground shots and some strong broader sequences too, even in the most unconventional locations, like an overpass. All this comes with no signs of any overt digital defects and problems. The colour scheme is skewed to a jaundiced yellow at time, perhaps to reflect the somewhat sickly material – not to mention one or two slightly jarring hallucinations which have their own colour scheme entirely, and are probably the only moments where detail fluctuates. Black levels always remain rich and deep, allowing for strong shadows and overall this is a largely demo-worthy, near-reference presentation.
Blu-ray Sound Quality
The accompanying soundtrack is also a surprisingly strong effort, delivering a finely-tuned and fitfully boisterous aural accompaniment.
Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout, emanating predominately from the fronts and centre channels, whilst the score provides a welcome background thrum which accentuates some of the more emotional threads but largely knows when to leave the events to speak for themselves. Effects are well-observed, and whilst they may be almost entirely atmospherically-driven, there are some surprisingly punchy moments that rather effectively jolt you back into the thick of things. Whilst it struggles to fully justify a demo award, it’s also equally hard to fault.
Blu-ray ExtrasA couple of very brief featurettes do not a set of worthy extras make.
Cake Blu-ray VerdictThere’s plenty to appreciate in Cake, which makes for an invested, at times even powerful dissection of loss, depression and sheer pain. It has some moving moments and a biting wit; strong and often surprising performances and a commanding lead.
It may not quite play its cards right in every respect, making a few missteps along the way, but it certainly maintains your interest throughout.
At the very least, this Region B-locked UK Blu-ray promotes the movie with excellent video and impressive audio, even if it does drop the ball when it comes to the terribly lacking extras. Fans of the film should consider it a solid purchase; those intrigued by the performances should consider it worthy of a rental.
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