Toronto: Jennifer Aniston Sparks Oscar Buzz With Game-Changing Drama 'Cake'

Jennifer Aniston — Oscar contender? You better believe it after the tumultuous standing ovation she received at the Elgin Theatre on Monday afternoon for her potentially career-changing film Cake after tifflogothe end credits had rolled. Sans makeup but for scars and other disfigurements, Aniston proved way beyond cosmetic changes that she is the real thing. She’s heartbreakingly good, alternately bitingly dramatic and funny in this story of a woman suffering with chronic pain. It is also partially to the credit of writer pete_hammond_300x100Patrick Tobin  and director Daniel Barnz (Phoebe In Wonderland, Won’t Back Down) that Aniston’s character Claire doesn’t strike a false note throughout.

Given the right distributor (and I hear several are in the hunt) this should be Aniston’s Monster or Monster’s Ball — or even Dallas Buyers Club, which transformed Matthew McConaughey’s career last year and brought him the Best Actor Oscar. There are really no tricks to this performance. It’s raw and real, poignant and unexpected.

In a conversation shortly after the screening the palpably excited star told me the reaction received by the film and her performance was a bit overwhelming. “It was such an emotional moment for me. I was nearly brought to tears,” she said. In fact I heard she was in tears later backstage, when the positive tweets started coming in. As for the film, she said she simply couldn’t turn it down when it came to her less than a year ago. “You have to go with the script,” she said. “When I read it I knew it was the role of a lifetime. How could I turn that down?”

At the post-screening Q&A she elaborated: “It was a no-brainer. Just reading Patrick’s script I actually saw myself doing it. I just felt like it was already happening and it was pretty easy to say ‘yes.’ It was such a beautiful, complex, layered, tortured character. I just tapped into something I was meant to do,” she said. She did extensive research and even had friends who suffered with similar pain and addiction to prescription drugs to curb it. She said she talked to a lot of people who deal with this huge problem, who could “walk me in that walk.”

2014 Toronto International Film Festival - Day 5Many pundits would probably dismiss Aniston as a major studio movie star who does lighter fare like We’re The Millers (a personal favorite by the way), but she has proven in the past with indie fare like The Good Girl  and Management that she is no one-trick pony but rather a star with still-untapped potential. I actually thought she was great opposite Vince Vaughn in The Breakup, a wildly underrated studio dramedy.

Barnz says she was a joy to work withJennifer-Aniston-Gets-Makeunder-Face-Scar-for-New-Movie-Photo, jumping in feet first into the project that came together unusually quickly. He had reluctantly been judging a screenwriting competition in Southern California when it suddenly dawned on him the winner was a script he should make. “That was June, 2013; we were in pre-production in February and before the cameras in April, finishing in May,” he said of the accelerated schedule. He managed to get some more money from the producers for a faster postproduction schedule and got it ready just in time for Toronto. Aniston jokingly told me that quick pace caused windburn and whiplash, but they got it done in 25 days. One of the key producers is Mark Canton, largely known by his own admisson as the guy behind heavy testosterone flicks like 300. He says in addition to those he wants to do a program of about 10 smaller films of this kind of quality, even though he’s not quitting his day job. (He will be on the set for his latest epic, The Last Witch Hunter, today.) Canton told me at the after-party that there is no question they want to get this film out this year in time to qualify it for Oscars. They should, not only for Aniston’s bravura turn but also for past Supporting Actress nominee (for Babel) Adriana Barraza.

As for Aniston, this is the fourth time she’s been to the Toronto Film Festival. “Let’s hope the fourth time’s a charm,” she laughed, although it wouldn’t  surprise me at all if it were.

As for the one and only Monday of this TIFF, it was chock-full of a number of other films that could be considered contenders. "Rosewater" TIFF Premiere Party Hosted by GREY GOOSE vodka and Soho House Toronto
"Wild" Premiere - Arrivals - 2014 Toronto International Film FestivalAnd now that the hot festival real estate of the first four days has passed, there’s room for some very big names that chose instead to premiere first at Telluride or Venice. Foxcatcher, a Cannes and Telluride hit, was received here with equal praise after its premiere Monday night with the entire cast in tow. Jon Stewart’s Rosewater,"Foxcatcher" Premiere - Red Carpet - 2014 Toronto International Film Festival  a Telluride debut now coming to TIFF as a special screening, screened earlier Monday and has the advantage of  coming to TIFF with strong word of mouth.

Two more Monday fest debuts: Reese Witherspoon in Wild, which world premiered in Telluride, won another enthusiastic standing ovation and further cemented Witherspoon’s Oscar potential. And 99 Homes, previously on the circuit at both Venice and Telluride, also came from a position of strength within the competition and looking to finalize a deal here that would put it squarely in the heart of this year’s awards race. The threat by TIFF to demote any film that played Telluride first didn’t seem to have an effect one way or another. On Tuesday night, another Telluride expat, The Imitation Game, gets its day in the Toronto sun. And so it goes.

  1. She deserve an oscar in her roles in The good girl ,management ,friends with money ,life of crime & She’s funny ithat way .

  2. Best thing about ‘The Breakup’ was how good Aniston looked. That was a mostly bummer film b/c of how much better it could have been. It’s watchable, but I always think it should have been better. I also never believed in the reasoning behind the actual break-up. Just didn’t feel legit. And really, Vaughn’s character is not going to try and make it work with Aniston? C’mon.

    As for the Oscar talk – sure why not? She’ll get a nod b/c getting her to the Oscars automatically ups the star power level. Not saying she wouldn’t deserve it, but the more ‘popular’ movie stars the better for that awful awards show.

  3. Comparing Aniston to McConaughey? Come on. He’s had, count ’em, these critical hits in the last three years: Magic Mike, Mud, Killer Joe, Bernie, Lincoln Lawyer, Wolf of Wall Street, Dallas Buyers Club, True Detective. He even emerged from Paperboy with his dignity intact.

    1. The point – Mick – is that Charlize Theron, Halle Berry, and Matthew McConaughey were three talented actors who were not taken seriously prior to particular game-changing roles that made people see them differently. Killer Joe and Bernie were great, but let’s be real, no one saw them. And I know you’re not telling me he started being taken seriously because of Magic Mike. Dallas Buyer’s Club is what put him on the level he’s on now.

      1. McConaughey won both the NY Film Critics and the Independent Spirit Award for Magic Mike and Bernie. He was nominated for the Indy in lead for Killer Joe. Dallas Buyers Club was just the Oscar bait cherry on top of the cake.

        1. That’s all well and good, but my point is to the general public (whom did not see those movies nor do they care about the Spirit Awards or NY Film critics) still saw him a cheesy Rom Com actor. Charlize Theron and Halle Berry were pretty faces prior to Monster and Monster’s Ball.

      2. No that’s not “the point,” all the people you name had achieved critical acclaim for dramatic acting and we’re thought of as fine dramatic actors BEFORE they won Oscars. Whether it was Halle Berry in Dorothy Dandridge, or Theron in Cider House Rules and Devils Advocate, or Matthew in A Time to Kill or Amistad. You are deluded or working for a PR office.

        1. And Jennifer got acclaim for The Good Girl and Friends With Money. Doesn’t change the fact that SHE is still not taken seriously by Hollywood nor were Matthew or Charlize or Halle prior to their Oscar winning roles.

      3. That Matthew Mc however it’s spelled never got his looks back and looks really old after the movie he lost all that weight for.

    2. Yeah, the only real notable performances by Mathew in that list was killer joe, Dallas, and Lincoln lawyer. The rest are just roles

  4. You sound like Aniston’s publicist. Most critics are calling her perfomance OK and good for her, but not Oscar-worthy, and the film a meandering let-down. Deadline sure spends an awful lot of time hyping this woman. A “great” perfromance for her is mediocre by Oscar standards. Next.

  5. I have always been a fan, but I’ve seen her do other tender and dramatic moments,even when she was doing her famous comedy show. It would be nice to see her at least get nominated.

  6. Oh gosh, the film isn’t so good that Pete says. And Aniston performances doesn’t deserve an Oscar nomination. Please the critics watch better optiones of actresses like Anne Dorval, Julianne Moore, Marion Cotillard or Scarlett Johansson

  7. Aniston will be nothing more than a seat filler at the Academy Awards, if she’s lucky. She’ll be there watching the other REAL actors receive their Oscars. Also, the Good Girl and Friends With Money were the MOST BORING FILMS EVER! If that is all you have to prop her up with then that is just sad and proof of what a mediocre actor she really is.

  8. Seriously? “She’s Funny That Way” doesn’t have a distributor coming out of Venice; “Management” stayed on the shelf for two years and made $300,000 imn theatrical. “Friends With Money” didn’t ever make it’s budgets back. “life Of Crime” just opened in 37 theatres and VOD and crashed/burned. Who is kidding who here? Does “Cake” have a domestic distributiondeal?

  9. I saw cake and loved it surely an Oscar worthy performance from Ms. Aniston. and the buzz kicked in right away

  10. I saw the movie and I’ll give it 2/5 stars of 5. Nothing special, and Aniston does not goes for the Oscar nod, not her.

  11. wow, Aniston must have been so nice to Pete H. in that event to say those things. She is the type who kiss assess to be in the good graces of people. She can’t act, she is all hype, thanks to her PR machine. C’mon she is no Charlize nor Halle.

    1. indeed-name 5 actresses that could have done any Anustain role better its a rea fun game cause there are so many for each role

  12. I am sure it is a great performance…for her. No makeup and scars! So brave!
    She is awful; she is always Rachel Green in EVERY performance. And every movie she has ever headlined has bombed.

  13. WOW haters are so hurry up to attack jen’s act.LOL.That’s very sad.Because jennifer aniston is a great actress,and she’s great in the good girl,we’re the millers , friends with money and cake

  14. I notice that anne is a hater of jennifer aniston,and she always like to attack jennifer aniston all the time.That proves she is a bad guy.Jen is looking good and she’s great all the movies.She is not rachel,but she can make people feel that she’s rachel,That’s a great thing,that’s not awful,that’s wonderful!!

    1. I agree. She is a good actress to me, and I like her movies. But, maybe this movie will help her out. Gosh, she hasn’t aged at all in my opinion.

  15. It’s coming soon.She can act,even she will not get an oscar ,that can’t prove that she is not a good actress,I think she’s a great actress in some movies.She has amazing sense of humor

  16. That is very intersting.Jen has some great roles,but haters still say that she’s a bad actress.I just wanna know ,what do you want to say?Jen has prove that she can act in many times ,you can’t see it just because you are blind.that’s not her fault.That’s your problem.Jen wins so much love is just because she can act very great.I love jennifer aniston’s movies.I think cake will be a good movie ,Jen acts great in this movie.Don’t judge her again,it just make you looks like a foolish poor loser.

    1. she was given roles that COULD have been great if they had given them to another actress-she has ruined alot of movies for me with actors I really like but just can’t stomach her in them-like how hilarious would Horrible Bosses be if Wendy Malick played the dentist-she was perfect for the role and with Kevin Spacey and Charlie Day it would have been magic

  17. It’s not the truth.It’s not true that she’s always rachel green,it’s people’s mind.People can’t let rachel go away,but it is not jen’s fault,that’s just prove that she is so talent,she makes rachel come ture,that proves jen is a great actress. She’s not rachel in the good girl,she’s not rachel in Along Came Polly(in fact i think she’s phoebe in that movie) she’s not rachel in friends with money,she’s not rachel in the break up.She’s not rachel in horrible bosses,she’s not rachel in cake.People can’t forget rachel,that’s not a bad thing.I really think so.People can’t forget rachel is just beauce they feel like jennifer aniston is rachel.and it’s a actress’s biggest successful.
    Don’t say that she’s awful,that’s not the tureth.

  18. Like others before her, have a drastic weight change or make yourself look plain and ugly, and you will get an Oscar.

  19. Aniston is a boring actress. “Cake” Jen’s acting was forced and dry. She’s better with comedies and ensemble like “Horrible Bosses”. She can’t carry a movie by herself. Oscar buzz please no way!!

  20. Most of Aniston movies FLOPPED like the last one “Life of a Crime” no wonder why “Cake” has not shown yet. Reese Whiterspoon has 2 movies that are Oscar worthy. Aniston can’t act and she too boring. Scars and disheveled look doesn’t mean Oscar buzz. It’s about acting.

  21. this is hilarious-no one who saw the dog is “Oscar buzzing” her role-and now with Gone Girl going into orbit she can forget about it-Rosamund Pike has done stole the show -and Anustain will be lucky or just getting a mercy nod if she gets a nomination-lots of strong females roles i competition and Cake was just boring and predictable and awful-Anustain actually thinks just taking off her make up and her fake hair extensions out is getting her an Oscar? oh soooo funny-she is only hilarious when she doesn’t want to be otherwise just boring

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