Frances Winston takes a look at Jennifer Aniston’s gritty new role in this powerful but flawed drama
Directed by: Daniel Barnz
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Felicity Huffman, William H. Macy, Chris Messina, Lucy Punch, Anna Kendrick, Sam Worthington
Jennifer Aniston steps away from the rom-coms and tackles a gritty role for the first time in ages. She plays Claire, a woman who suffers chronic emotional and physical pain since a car crash, which claimed the life of her son.
After attending a support group for victims of chronic pain, she becomes fascinated by a woman called Nina (Kendrick) who killed herself rather than live in agony. She befriends her husband Roy (Worthington) and son, and the two work through their issues together.
This is the basic premise of this flick, which is extended to a respectable hour and forty minutes running time. A good old fashioned drama, this relies on the performances and story to keep the audience engaged, rather than any big showy scenes.
The story unfolds slowly and seems to have an organic build. Claire is acerbic and unlikeable, until her story starts to reveal itself, and you realise just how deeply damaged she is. Aniston does a great job of conveying the inner turmoil she is feeling, while maintaining a cold and brusque exterior. Worthington is somewhat underused as Roy, but does a decent enough job, and Kendrick is surprisingly good as Nina, whose image haunts Claire, especially as she gets closer to Roy. There are also great but brief performances from husband and wife acting team Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy, as the support group leader and the man responsible for Claire’s car crash respectively.
Aniston has been lauded for her performance here, and it is indeed consistent and commendable. No doubt it took guts for her to “ugly up” to play the scarred and dowdy Claire. However, the movie lacks any big dramatic scenes that the Academy loves so much, so that may explain her omission from the list of Best Actress contenders. The pace here is leisurely rather than breakneck, and it is the kind of movie you really need to stick with. There are times when nothing seems to be happening, when actually there is a lot going on – always the sign of great writing – and the script is also one of the shining stars here. The often dreamy cinematography helps give us a sense of the fog that Claire lives in, and the muted tones help convey the mundane routine of her post-trauma life. All of this, and Barnz thoughtful directing combine to make an incredibly engaging movie.
Hard to watch at times, this will tug at your heartstrings a little bit. It’s a heavy watch, and not one for those who are simply looking for a “popcorn” movie. But if you are looking for an engaging dark drama, this will tick your boxes.
In cinemas March 20th