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Check out our review of this offbeat drama about a woman who becomes fascinated by the suicide of a woman in her chronic pain support group while grappling with her own, very raw personal tragedy.



The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:


Extras:


Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

86



Details:

Studio and Year: 20th Century Fox - 2014
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 102 minutes
Genre: Drama

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Resolution: 1080p/24

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Adriana Barraza, Felicity Huffman, Sam Worthington, Anna Kendrick, William H. Macy, Christopher Messina
Directed by: Daniel Barnz
Music by: Christophe Beck
Written by: Patrick Tobin
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: April 21, 2015


"Forgiveness is a bitter pill to swallow"


My Take:

Cake takes us into the darkly off kilter world of Claire Bennett (Jennifer Aniston) who initiates a dubious relationship with a widower (Sam Worthington) while confronting fantastical hallucinations of his dead wife (Anna Kendrick). With her feisty housekeeper-cum-caretaker (Adriana Barraza) ever at her side, Claire searches for human connection and self-forgiveness in this tale of personal redemption.

I like Jennifer Aniston and looked forward to seeing Cake as I’d hoped it would give her the opportunity to carry a dramatic film. She gives a strong performance in this role and clearly put a lot into the character however problems with the script held the film back. The plot focuses on Aniston’s character Claire, a woman who has suffered a traumatic event that has left her physically and mentally damaged. As such she relies heavily on and has become addicted to pain pills and to a lesser degree alcohol, to cope with and escape from both. The film opens with Claire sitting in on a chronic pain support group. Her demeanor is quickly and firmly established as someone who embittered and unencumbered by trampling on the feelings of others.

From there the introductions to the people surrounding Claire begin, starting with her caregiver, Silvana, who she shares the closet relationship with. Other than Silvana, characters are only briefly interjected over the course of the film. What I found noticeably lacking was the viability of any tangible connection between them and Claire. This was even true, to an extent, with Silvana, which made it hard to understand why she took so much crap from Claire. The only relationship that we as the audience had any insight into was between Claire and Roy Collins. He was the widower of Nina Collins, a woman Claire knew from the support group, who had recently committed suicide. Claire would regularly have visions/nightmares of Nina which frankly made little sense. This again goes back to the lack of foundation for their earlier relationship.

What happened to Claire is revealed later in the film and while there is some empathy and understanding the poorly established rapport with her dilutes its effectiveness. I think that had the screenplay gone for a slightly warmer storyline with better drawn interpersonal relationships Cake would have felt much better rounded. As it stands I felt it was a passable film, thanks mostly in part to Jennifer Aniston’s performance which complimented the script’s subtly dark levity and melodrama. I watched it with my wife who had been anxious to see it. Her comments pretty much echoed mine.


Parental Guide:

The rating is for language, substance abuse and brief sexuality.


AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**



Audio: 82
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)


  • Dynamics:
  • Low frequency effects:
  • Surround Sound presentation:
  • Clarity/Detail:
  • Dialogue Reproduction:
  • Low frequency extension * (non-rated element): NA
  • DSU Rating * (non-rated element): NA

Video: 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)


  • Resolution/Clarity:
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail:
  • Color Reproduction:
  • Fleshtones:
  • Compression:


Cake comes to Blu-ray Disc from 20th Century Fox Home entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 32 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.3 Mbps.

Colors are effectively used in this film to help set the tone/setting based upon the mood of the scene. The chroma range isn’t broad and hues can vary from being sullen and inanimate to warm and inviting. Skin tones are appropriately bland with natural highlights and descriptive variation. Images onscreen were exquisitely detailed and sharp with superb depth of field and visible texture during wide angle shots. Contrast is spot on and blacks are deep with revealing delineation that provides excellent perceptibility during scenes shot at night or in lower lighting. The video has a pristine quality that is free of video related artifacts.

The DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix features dialogue that is full bodied with defining tonal characteristics and prominent soundstage position. High level detail is readily apparent as subtle sound effects, music and voices are rendered with superior clarity and depth. There is little call for active surround activity and extended dynamics however there is frequent use of atmospheric sounds that utilize the entire soundstage in support of the exterior/interior venues depicted in the film. The end result is an excellent audio presentation that renders the soundtrack’s elements with aplomb.



Bonus Features:
  • (HD) The many layers of Cake: Learning to live again – 3 minute featurette
  • (HD) The icing on the Cake: Meet the cast – 3 minute featurette
  • (HD) Theatrical trailer
  • Digital HD Copy



Final Thoughts:


Cake is a somewhat offbeat dramatic film that features a terrific performance by star Jennifer Aniston but suffers from a middling script that fails to deliver a well-rounded story. It comes to Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment featuring crisp high definition video, complimentary lossless sound quality and a lackluster supplemental offering. Cake is worth a look but will probably garner deeper appreciation from Jenifer Aniston devotees.





Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews



Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS4910 3D Ready 1080p High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6 Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV8802 13.2 Channel Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo BDP-103D Universal Disc/3D capable Blu-ray Player (With Darbee video processing)
Panasonic DMP-BDT310 3D capable Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton "Ergo" and In-Ceiling series speakers
Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers
SVS PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
SVS PC12-NSD
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package
 

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From there the introductions to the people surrounding Claire begin, starting with her caregiver, Silvana, who she shares the closet relationship with. Other than Silvana, characters are only briefly interjected over the course of the film. What I found noticeably lacking was the viability of any tangible connection between them and Claire. This was even true, to an extent, with Silvana, which made it hard to understand why she took so much crap from Claire. The only relationship that we as the audience had any insight into was between Claire and Roy Collins. He was the widower of Nina Collins, a woman Claire knew from the support group, who had recently committed suicide. Claire would regularly have visions/nightmares of Nina which frankly made little sense. This again goes back to the lack of foundation for their earlier relationship.

What happened to Claire is revealed later in the film and while there is some empathy and understanding the poorly established rapport with her dilutes its effectiveness. I think that had the screenplay gone for a slightly warmer storyline with better drawn interpersonal relationships Cake would have felt much better rounded. As it stands I felt it was a passable film, thanks mostly in part to Jennifer Aniston’s performance which complimented the script’s subtly dark levity and melodrama. I watched it with my wife who had been anxious to see it. Her comments pretty much echoed mine.
Ralph, I saw this in the theater and fully agree with your assessment of the story. This pretty much nails it:
I think that had the screenplay gone for a slightly warmer storyline with better drawn interpersonal relationships Cake would have felt much better rounded.
I thought that Jennifer Aniston gave a surprising performance that was a big step away from her usual rom-coms. I got this blu-ray this week as I wanted to see it again to see if multiple viewings would help better define the storyline.
 
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