Saturday, January 24, 2015

Rapid Reviews: Cake and The Boy Next Door

One of the most talked-about Oscar snubs this year was the omission of Jennifer Aniston in the Best Actress race. As a well known sitcom star who's found comfort in comedic and light-hearted dramatic roles throughout her career, Aniston tackles a more challenging character in Daniel Barnz's Cake. Yet, instead of honoring her gutsy and self-loathing performance just like the Golden Globes and SAG had already done, the Academy chose to look the other way in favor of a more regular entrant, Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night).

Jennifer Aniston takes center stage as Claire, a cynical chronic-pain support group member who becomes fascinated with the recent suicide of another attendee, Nina (played by Anna Kendrick). As Claire continues her habitual abuse of pain killers in an attempt to numb herself of a traumatic past event, she finds herself on the doorstep of Nina's surviving husband, Roy (Sam Worthington). Claire's new friendship with Roy forces her to reflect on her own life as the brittle woman struggles to cope with her past and toes the line of suicide herself.

Jennifer Aniston trades in her skimpy outfits and age-defying makeup for a baggy wardrobe and physical scars in an Oscar-baiting role that unfortunately didn't pan out. Her commitment is full throttle as Aniston's performance undoubtedly carries Cake from depressing scene to depressing scene. However, a dull screenplay that unravels painfully slow counteracts the film's praiseworthy performances. All in all, Cake tells a genuinely sad and periodically uplifting story in a less than impressive manner.

Stars: 2 stars out of 4

Grade: C+

With the countless teacher-student sex scandals that make headlines every week, filmmaker Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious) embraces this taboo subject matter by dishing out his latest cinematic dud, The Boy Next Door. And while it's no secret that January is known for unveiling sub-par and thoughtless titles to compete against the Oscar juggernauts craving a bigger box office, Cohen's film is about as low as it gets.

Jennifer Lopez stars as Claire Peterson, a recently separated high school Literature teacher stuck in limbo over forgiving her cheating husband or moving on from their tainted relationship. Meanwhile, a new 19 year old senior named Noah (Ryan Guzman) moves in next door to take care of his sick uncle, and the young man develops an interest in Claire. After an awful blind date one evening, the emotionally vulnerable teacher takes to a bottle of wine and succumbs to Noah's tempting seduction. But as she continues to tell him their one night stand was simply a mistake, the high-tempered teen begins to show his true colors.

There are so many issues with The Boy Next Door I don't even know where to begin. Everything from its hokey opening flashback to set-up the story all the way to the film's surprisingly violent finale, The Boy Next Door just screams made-for-tv-movie. The events are completely unrealistic and the fully grown 27 year old Ryan Guzman is a laughable casting decision for the role of Noah. In all seriousness, the best part of the movie was that I only had to sit through 91 minutes of it.

Stars: 1 star out of 4

Grade: D

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