Sweet Liberation: ‘Cake’

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I’ve become obsessed with freedom.

What is it? Who has it? How can I tell? What does it look like? How can I get some? Questions. So many of them, and all elude me. When I get a glimpse, it’s often on screen, on a page, or in a fleeting moment.

Well, that’s where I’m coming from. Through that lens, I must say that Jennifer Aniston’s role in ‘Cake’ is a vision of extreme, very real suffering and quiet, also very real liberation. What do I mean by real?

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When we first see this character, her wit burns her, her anger lights the match- she’s already worn thin the patience of everyone put in place to aid her in a struggle we know nothing about, yet. She is in some unnamable, overwhelming personal trouble. She isn’t just a bitch, there’s a stiffness and weight to her bearing. She is carrying burdens that will either kill her or set her free. Until the final moments, we don’t know which fate she will meet.

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Obsessed with the death of an acquaintance who also suffers chronic pain, she unravels. She sinks in pools and lays her head on train tracks. She drinks and kicks back pain pills like candy. She is alone by choice. It is when she chooses to reach out in a strange way, to a vulnerable stranger- the husband of the woman she knew who committed suicide- that she begins to set priorities for herself about existing among the living. She takes risks to get what she wants because she is more afraid of not ever again having a chance on the journey than meeting danger.

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This protagonist wins her freedom when she decides to connect in life rather than waiting for death, no matter the physical pain. Freedom in the first part looks like “fuck it! i say what i want”, but by the end she’s found the balance between liberty and passion. She’s kept the choosy attitude but regained confidence that she not only survive her broken past, but rebuild her present and start making a path to her future.

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