September 9, 2014 3:30 PM

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LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - A strong if self-consciously deglammed performance from Jennifer Aniston deserves more honest story treatment than it gets in "Cake." Approaching such heavy issues as suicide, grief, separation and pill addiction with a disarming sense of humor, director Daniel Barnz and screenwriter Patrick Tobin attempt to pull off an emotional bait-and-switch by suddenly revealing a more sympathetic side to their anti-heroine, falling back on one of the hoariest and most overused of movie cliches in the process. Although Aniston and other cast names will draw distrib and audience interest, this manipulatively layered "Cake" probably won't rise to the occasion in limited theatrical play and VOD rotation.

From the opening scene of her annoyingly touchy-feely, I-respect-your-feelings support group for sufferers of chronic pain, Claire Simmons (Aniston) has the audience firmly on her side. While everyone else expresses shock and sadness over the loss of one of their own, Nina, who recently jumped to he...

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