Archetypes: Film: Review: ‘Cake’ (2015)

Cinelou Films

Cinelou Films

Physical and psychological immobilization caused by pain can be literally life-halting. This inability to go forward is at the heart of Cake, a sly exploration of the energy-fueled Mars archetype.

Typically the operative archetype in summer tentpole actioners, Mars – the ability to go after what one wants in life through will power, ego, motion or aggression – is a strong presence in Cake precisely because of its glaring absence.

Directed by Daniel Barnz, the film exudes inertia, with Claire (Jennifer Aniston) as its conduit. Hers is a body so riddled with pain caused by a car crash that any movement – Mars’ bailiwick – is torture. The clever onscreen rendering of the movie’s title shows Cake’s “A” lying on its side, fully reclined: this is the position Claire habitually reverts to in the car, while she’s being driven around by her faithful tolerant housekeeper Silvana (Adriana Barraza).

Claire, makeup-free and whose attire mode is slovenly baggy, has profound facial and leg scars. It’s no accident Mars – all bluster and ego – archetypally rules the head and physical exertion. However, her Mars energy is so blocked that she can’t even manage a successful suicide, despite the alternating taunts and encouragement from the ghost of Nina (Anna Kendrick). Nina, a younger woman in their pain-management group, had taken her life by jumping off a bridge, and her motion-in-death leap only reinforces, in twisted fashion, Claire’s crippling stasis.

Cinelou Films

Cinelou Films

Hardly sympathetic as a sufferer, Claire, newly separated from her husband (Chris Messina), gets proverbially pink-slipped by her two therapists. Yet, despite her anti-pain pill-guzzling – “Are you trying to anesthetize a small city?” asks one pharmacist – Claire’s curious to learn the truth behind Nina’s life through the widower husband (Sam Worthington), as if understanding another person’s tragic circumstances will help cure the psychic paralysis tied to her other monumental loss in the crash.

Therapists who analyze dreams are quick to point out that a person who’s in a moving vehicle in the driver’s seat – in control of direction, movement and destination, in Mars-like fashion – is in the take-charge position. Audiences will want the same for Claire. The song “Halo,” performed by Gary Lightbody over closing credits, is a radiant touch of grace to both the head and the heart.

Archetype: Motion. Immobility. Stasis. Anger.

Astrology Archetype: ♂ (Mars)

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