Short Takes and Trailers:   “Cake”  and “Skeleton Twins”

Cake

It was fun watching Jennifer Aniston’s performance in “Cake.”  But it shouldn’t have been. She plays Claire Simmons, victim of an unclarified tragedy that has left her childless and with chronic pain.  Her anger issues get her kicked out of a support group in which one of its members has committed suicide. Claire becomes haunted by Nina’s suicide, and suffers nightmares in which  Nina’s ghost challenges her to  also end her suffering by suiciding.  Eventually this imaginary partner in self-annihilation develops into a dangerously real  projection of Claire’s temptation to kill herself.  The script is nearly impenetrable, but it is fun to watch Aniston drag herself around town while affecting physical and psychological agony.

Hers is the kind of performance that moves the film crew to applause after each scene.  On the surface, she has the character down pat, but underneath there is a void. Aniston employs every contracted muscle at her disposal to indicate th depths of Claire’s pain, anxiety, and depression, but she reveals nothing about the person undergoing these troubles.  Boris Karloff had more personality as Frankenstein’s monster, with nothing but his sad eyes to gain our empathy.

The Skeleton Twins

When Milo (Bill Hader) lowers himself into the bathtub at the beginning of “The Skeleton Twins,” two things are obvious.  He is gay and about to attempt suicide.  At this very instant, his twin sister Maggie (Kristen Wigg)  is contemplating suicide, but a telephone call from the hospital saves her  life, at least for the moment. They have not seen each other for ten years, and their reconciliation tells us a lot about why they have avoided each other’s company.  They are prevaricating losers and it is painful and embarrassing to be in their presence. As Maggie’s husband Lance,  Luke Wilson is the only personage of interest in this movie, but when he realizes the nature of the movie he is in, he immediately exits.

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