'Sitting in Bars With Cake' review: Of friendships, fun and fate
That said, the two polar facets—one fun and light, and the other foreboding and poignant—are reminders of how the foolhardy optimism of youth exists only in the face of an assumed immortality.
The title, Sitting in Bars With Cake, promises viewers happy things such as cake and wine is an instant draw. And then, the premise—that of a woman, Jane (Yara Shahidi), taking sweet treats to bars to make friends—gets you hooked. The film, however, does not prepare you for the way it goes on to crush your heart when Jane’s friend, Corinne (Odessa A’Zion), is diagnosed with brain tumour. Although featured in the trailer, the morbid turn of events still feel like a shocker while watching the film. This is partly because of the tonal shifts in the narrative—it starts off as a carefree tale on friendships and finding love in LA, only to swiftly swerve into an inquiry on death.
That said, the two polar facets—one fun and light, and the other foreboding and poignant—are reminders of how the foolhardy optimism of youth exists only in the face of an assumed immortality. The young live the way they do, with sheer abandon, because they do not think death is imminent. But once the inevitable enters the picture, it brings up a lot of questions. What happens to those Corinne leaves behind? Or how will people remember her? It is nice to know people care, but for Corinne, it also comes with the sobering realisation that she is now an object of pity. The softening up of her otherwise gruff boss is the perfect example.
Another contrast that the film heartwarmingly plays up is Corinne’s steady descent into death vis-a-vis Jane’s journey of coming to terms with it. When the film begins, we see a socially awkward Jane, studying to be a lawyer because that is what is expected of her. It is Corinne, the confident friend, who notices her knack for baking and kickstarts the practice of “cake-barring”, solidifying their bond. The film borrows from the real-life story of its screenwriter, Amy Schulman. But, it is also reminiscent of some memorable dramedies around food. Take, for instance, Corinne’s suggestion to take a cake a week to a bar for an entire year, which brings to mind the challenge-oriented vigour of Julie & Julia (2009).
Fortunately for the film, Shahidi and A’Zion make for the perfect duo, coasting the sometimes inconsistent film with their endearing, affecting chemistry. And, with little to complain about, Sitting In Bars With Cake makes for a heartfelt watch, even if it hits harder than expected.