Karen Martin’s Home Movies: Cake, Taken 3, Everly, Little Accidents

April 24, 2015

By Karen Martin for blood, dirt & angels

Cake,directed by Daniel Barnz, (R, 102 minutes)

When we first meet acerbic and physically scarred Claire Bennett (Jennifer Aniston), she’s in a chronic pain support group meeting, where the members are seeking closure after the suicide of fellow sufferer Nina (Anna Kendrick). Claire is exasperated by the platitudes mouthed by the members, who express dismay that Nina didn’t reach out for help and left behind a husband and young son to cope with her death.

cake_poster_a_pAfter dryly recounting the comically grisly details of Nina’s end, Claire comes home to find a voice mail from group leader Annette (Felicity Huffman), who thinks it’d be better for everyone if Claire didn’t return to their meetings; perhaps she should seek counseling for her anger issues.

And Claire’s estranged husband (Chris Messina) wants to know when she won’t be home so he can come by and pick up the rest of his things. Claire scrounges around for some Oxycontin, finds herself unable to sleep, and goes out to soak in her pool. She’s awakened the next morning by her maid Silvana (Adriana Barraza), revealing an intriguing dynamic between the long-suffering caretaker and her prickly, privileged mistress.

Despite a few clunky patches where the ghost of Nina shows up to encourage Claire to follow her into oblivion, Cake ends up being affecting. As awful as Claire can be, she’s quite funny. The best thing about Aniston’s performance is not how Claire suffers, but how she refuses to suffer a foolish world.

Cake never slips into melodrama or devolves into a simple story about hard-won redemption. Director Daniel Barnz manages to maintain a balance between farce and sentimentality, allowing Aniston to craft an unsentimental portrait of a damaged woman weighing the pain of living against an unknowable alternative.

With Mamie Gummer, Misty Upham, Sam Worthington, William H. Macy, Lucy Punch.

Taken 3 (PG-13, 93 minutes) It’s time for Liam Neeson to walk away from this worn-out franchise, which doesn’t even try to be worthwhile. Lazy writing, indifferent performances and indifference on the part of everyone involved creates a snoozer of a supposed action thriller in which Bryan Mills (Neeson) finds it hard to get back together with his ex-wife and she is brutally murdered. With Forest Whitaker, Dougray Scott, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen; directed by Olivier Megaton.

Everly (R, 92 minutes) Everly is a violent, gory, excessive explosion of a film that concerns a forced-into-prostitution woman (Salma Hayek, formidable while in various stages of undress) who, well armed while holed up in her high-rise apartment, brutally and efficiently faces down assassins sent by her controlling mob boss. With Jennifer Blanc, Togo Igawa; directed by Joe Lynch.

Little Accidents (unrated, 105 minutes) An earnest, complicated and affecting melodrama in which Diane (Elizabeth Banks), distraught after the disappearance of her teenage son, drifts away from her coal-mining company supervisor husband Bill (Little Rock native Josh Lucas) and connects with the lone survivor of a mining accident in her small town. With Chloe Sevigny and Briggsville native Jacob Lofland (Mud); directed by Sara Colangelo.

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