‘Cake’ Trailer Proves Jennifer Aniston Deserves Oscar Buzz

Jennifer Aniston has already received plenty of Oscar buzz in recent months, thanks to her raw performance in the upcoming drama Cake. The movie first began garnering attention after premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this year. Now, the first official trailer for Cake has been released and it’s making it clear that this role is unlike anything we’ve ever seen from Aniston before.

Though several brief clips from the film have been released since the movie’s debut, the trailer marks the first extended look viewers have gotten at the potential award season contender. Cake stars Aniston as Claire Simmons, an acerbic woman suffering from chronic pain condition who becomes fascinated by the suicide of another member of her support group, Nina (played by Anna Kendrick). When she starts getting visions of Nina, Claire takes it upon herself to uncover the details of the suicide — all the meanwhile, struggling with her own personal demons.

Cake is much darker material than the type of fare moviegoers are used to seeing from Aniston. But what’s been getting most of the attention is Aniston’s worn-out appearance in the film. Claire is nothing like Friends’ glammed-up Rachel Green or the many other put-together characters she’s portrayed. In addition to gaining weight for the role, Aniston dons a fake scar on her face (a result of the injuries that her character sustained in an accident) and wears the barest traces of makeup only meant to enhance her character’s unhealthy pallor.

In the trailer, Aniston’s altered appearance is only enhanced by her character’s dramatic actions. In the very opening scene, Claire approaches a drugstore counter with a long list of medications, garnering a wary and reproachful look from the pharmacist. She chases a handful of pills with a swig of wine and in a later scene, even trades a “really nice bottle” of vodka for information about the whereabouts of Nina’s family. The dark depiction of a woman lost in her own pain, coupled with Aniston’s changed look, makes it easy to see why the project is spurring award season conversation. Some have even begun drawing comparisons between her performance and that of Charlize Theron’s work in 2003’s Monster — a controversial assessment that has its share of critics.

While her transformation isn’t as extreme as Theron’s, the comparison is apt in suggesting that Cake marks a turning point in Aniston’s career. She hasn’t gotten this much serious critical praise for her work since 2002’s Good Girl. Now, after an over decade-long string of rom-coms (Marley & Me, The Switch, Just Go With It) and dark comedies (Horrible Bosses, Life of Crime) that reached varying degrees of success, Aniston is returning to more substantial fare in full form.

Whether or not it’ll be enough to actually warrant her an Oscar nod is a different question altogether. Aniston is facing particularly stiff competition this year, with notable turns from Reese Witherspoon in Wild, Hilary Swank in The Homesman, Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything, Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl, Amy Adams in Big Eyes, and Julianne Moore (already the predicted frontrunner) in Still Alice, just to name a few. Regardless of whether she earns a nomination though, Aniston has at least proved that she can still surprise with unexpected, game-changing roles.

Cake opens in limited release in December, before expanding in 2015.

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