Freitag, 3. April 2015
When Marion Cotillard, as widely assumed, "stole" the fifth slot of the Best Actress nominations from Jennifer Aniston at this past Academy Awards, many Oscar watchers were surprised. After all, "Cake" is the classic example of popular comedian crossing over to hard-hitting drama by playing someone with (mental) illness while glammed-down to unrecognizability. Usually a formula for success- it worked this very year for Steve Carrell ("Foxcatcher") in the hotly contended Best Actor category- the former Friends-star wasn't able to ride it to nominees' land. As far as acting can be evaluated and ranked, though, there's really no contesting this particular call on the Academy's part. Both portraying middle-aged women combating depression, Cotillard's Sandra ("Deux jours, une nuit (Two Days, One Night)") is so soaked in and accustomed to pain she breathes, blinks, even smiles despair. Aniston is certainly more than fine herself as Claire, someone made bitter and crass by the trauma of loss. The opening scenes with her, especially, pack an instant impact- not just because the hardened lines and loosened skin contribute to a scarred and mirthless exterior that's a shocking far cry from everybody's memory of Rachel Green; but her eyes are lazied, posture stiffened, voice alarmingly chilled. For a first impression, this stylistic and vocal reinvention is quite compelling.
Partly due to the well-meaning but formulaic writing and the less-than-subtle direction, noticeable flaws in the performance do begin to pop up, however, as the story unfolds. The arc of the self-destructive lost cause opening up after finding a kindred soul feels too familiar and compromises the integrity of the character. Director Daniel Barnz's attempt to enrich the depiction of pure misfortune with some offbeat humor is commendable but often backfires under his broad strokes and an overtly Sundance-y air of affectation. As a result, Claire's motivations don't always seem reasonable nor her actions justified. Just on a technical level, Aniston can't entirely switch off her razor sharp comedic instincts and every, perhaps unconsciously, but nonetheless perfectly delivered deadpan contradicts somewhat the otherwise distraught façade with a supposedly broken core.
From the humanistic concern, spiritualistic approach to the stripped, transformative lead performance, this movie is full of admirable undertakings. But good intentions famously don't make for good movies. Lacking in consistency, authenticity and finesse, this is a cake that's made from healthy ingredients but tastes funny.