The movie "Cake" just came out on DVD this week and we were lucky enough to snag it on Netflix right away. This is that Jennifer Aniston film about a woman living with chronic pain. I've been looking forward to seeing what Hollywood would do with this opportunity since December when Ms. Aniston was promoting the film.
Aniston plays a woman named Claire, who has been in a terrible accident that claimed the life of her young son and left her scarred, living with chronic pain and apparently resulted in the demise of her marriage. While Claire's pain is a constant presence, the movie is about grief much more than it's about living with chronic pain.
Let me begin with what I liked about the movie:
1. I felt like Aniston did a good job.
2. The character Claire was layered and complex - the way real people are.
3. Claire was doing the best she could even though she wasn't usually doing good. Been there.
4. We got to see that moment when her MINDSET changed from viewing her pain as acute to viewing her pain as chronic. As we all know, it can take a long time for the mind to make that shift.
Now, this is what I didn't like about the movie:
1. The chronic pain support group at the beginning of the film is portrayed as a bunch of people who can't understand what Claire is going through. They decide to kick her out of the group, which gives the audience the impression that her response to all her trauma and pain is atypical, abnormal and unjustified. I'm not saying everyone will react like Claire but I certainly get where she is coming from and I think a group of fellow chronic pain sufferers would too.
2. The audience was NOT given the opportunity to really join Claire on her journey because so much of her story was either doled out in small bits towards the end of the film or left out entirely. This made the film slow and, worse, it left the arc of the character wide open to misunderstanding. I got it, but then again I've been living with chronic pain for 9 years. I don't think the average person will learn or better understand anything about grief or chronic pain from watching "Cake".
3. The film was 1 hour and 40 minutes of missed opportunities to tell an interesting, complex story about a woman who is dealing with tremendous obstacles. It sort of glossed over things, giving us glimpses but never a good hard look. I was left feeling quite unsatisfied.
Overall I didn't like the movie. It wasn't terrible or anything, it just wasn't that good. Honestly, if I wasn't living with chronic pain I probably would have turned it off about a half hour in. Opting instead to watch one of the many shows hubby and I are making our way through on Netflix.