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Sitting in Bars with Cake (2023)

Sitting in Bars with Cake (2023)

PG-13

Standard-issue melodrama that still works as a sincere, well-acted tearjerker

6.8

Movie

United States of America
English
Comedy, Drama, Romance
2023
FEMALE DIRECTOR, TRISH SIE
Bette Midler, Maia Mitchell, Odessa A'zion
120 min

TLDR

The fact that a movie with a title made up of this many random words still made me cry makes me feel cheated, somehow.

What it's about

As two best friends embark on a personal project that involves baking cakes as a way to meet people, one of them is abruptly diagnosed with brain cancer.

The take

Sitting in Bars with Cake's best qualities and roughest qualities stem from the fact that the story is apparently based on true events. Screenwriter Audrey Shulman (who based the script on her cookbook of the same title) clearly wants to honor the details of this very personal year in her life, but the effect is a story that often lacks thematic coherence. When the cancer diagnosis is inevitably revealed, the rest of the film's subplots just seem frivolous and underdeveloped in comparison. But there's also a charm to having this be a story about a friendship rooted in regular, random things—suddenly interrupted by a devastating illness. The film definitely doesn't escape the cliches of a cancer drama, but they're deployed in a more sedate, mature way here. And if the filmmaking doesn't do much to tell this story in a more interesting way, the performances are enough to let the emotions land when they really need to.

What stands out

Yara Shahidi and Odessa A'zion are exactly who they need to be in roles that could easily have invited lots of overacting. As the cancer-stricken Corinne, A'zion is more frustrated at not being able to go about her daily life than anything—relatable characterization for anyone who's been around a friend or relative struggling with their health. And Shahidi has her Jane gradually build up the fortitude needed to keep her friend comfortable and loved as she continues getting weaker. And as Corinne's father, Ron Livingston turns in a surprisingly moving supporting performance with the limited screen time he gets, trying his best to connect with his daughter in the time she needs him most.

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