Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Review - The Cake Eaters

Dwight 'Beagle' Kimbrough after losing his ill mother deals with his pent up emotions surrounding her death and his father's detachment. While working at a local flea market with his father Easy, Beagle meets a teenage girl named Georgia, who suffers from a rare disease known as Friedreich's ataxia. Georgia takes an instant liking to Beagle and the two begin seeing more of each other than her family would like. Beagle and Georgia come to realize that their families are connected in a way which opens old wounds and forces them to share new experiences.

"The Cake Eaters" is a poignant drama that proves we can each find our own happiness even if it doesn't please the one's we love. Mary Stuart Masterson's directorial debut is filled with potent performances and a very simple story that is not only absorbing, but in the end leaves a lasting effect. The somber story spends a majority of the film dealing with the relationships between a father and his two sons after the death of his wife. The endearing film also develops a peculiar love triangle between two families that leaves both sides questioning their own preconceived ideas.

Dwight 'Beagle' Kimbrough is the central figure in Masterson's "The Cake Eaters" and Aaron Stanford delivers a convincing and memorable performance in his portrayal. Stanford who is mainly known for his role in the X-Men movies as Pyro, delivers a complete 180 from what we have seen him do there. Stanford's performance is subdued and delicate, but his emotions ring through in commanding fashion. Stanford does his best work playing off the actors who star in "The Cake Eaters." All of Stanford's scenes with his on screen father Easy, played by Bruce Dern are mesmerizing and are a sobering revelation to the break down that can happen between a father and his son.

Bruce Dern also presents a refined performance as Easy, the patriarch of the Kimbrough family and local butcher. Dern conveys a true sense of regret in the film that is aimed at both his own life and the decisions of his son Beagle. I loved Dern's thoughtful approach, that was both stern and touching. His scenes shared between his son's Beagle and Guy are powerful and reminded me as a father, never to play favorites with my own children.

The performances throughout "The Cake Eaters" cannot be spoken about without giving credit to actor and writer Jayce Bartok. Bartok plays Guy in "The Cake Eaters" and while his character is given very little to do, his character has a dramatic effect on everyone he touches. Guy's character returns home after chasing a wishful music career in New York. Upon Guy's return home however, only his father seems enthusiastic. His brother Beagle and his ex-girlfriend Stephanie (played by Miriam Shor) aren't as thrilled. Bartok like the rest of the cast does a remarkable job conveying believable emotions mainly through pure body language instead of dialogue.

Kristen Stewart is a master of delivering touching performances through mainly dry characters. Stewart's character here in "The Cake Eaters" draws a lot of resemblance to her character in Into the Wild starring Emile Hirsch. She is an outsider and has struggled to find her own voice amongst her over-protective mother. Her character, Georgia suffers from Friedreich's ataxia, a disease that causes progressive damage to the nervous system and can lead to heart failure. Georgia desperately wants to be like everyone else and Stewart delivers a polished performance as the fragile teenager. Furthermore her scene's with Aaron Stanford are both stirring and gratifying despite, the questionable age difference that is a major focal point throughout the indie drama.

One thing I found endlessly gratifying about "The Cake Eaters" is amongst all of the somber and dreary tones in the film, a shining light of encouragement can be found hiding in the background. "The Cake Eaters" conveys that we each have things in our lives that makes us happy and we should allow those things to happen. Some of our decisions may not sit right with all of the people who surround us, but in the end, it's what makes us happy (not them). Overall, it is a film that forces the viewer to find appreciation in the little things, even if those things may not seem so little to others in our lives.