Until recently, I had never heard of the concept of “cakebarring”. I am still not sure how much of a thing it truly is, but it was coined by Audrey Shulman and her best friend as a way for Audrey to perhaps find a boyfriend by baking a different cake each week for a year and taking them to bars, giving pieces of cake away to strangers as a conversation piece. About halfway through the project, things took a crazy turn that would change both of their paths which turned their experiences into a book and then a film called Sitting in Bars with Cake.
Pitch Perfect 3 director Trish Sie brings Shulman’s book to the screen with Yara Shahidi in her role as “Jane” and Odessa A’zion playing the role of her best friend, “Corinne”. In this telling, they work together at Capitol Records with Jane working the mail room and Corinne the assistant to agent Benita (Bette Midler). From the first moments of this film, both Shahidi and A’zion show chemistry that completely sells them as lifelong friends who run the gambit of emotions over two hours in a story of family, friendship, love, and loyalty that I found impossible to miss a moment of. There are also great performances here by the great Ron Livingston as Corinne’s father and Martha Kelly as her mother whose involvement increases as the story progresses at just the right moments.
And that is the pitfall that films like this tend to fall into when trying to pull at its audience’s heartstrings: there is a point where this aspect of a script can cross over into trying to cover up storytelling with emotion. Luckily, Sitting in Bars with Cake avoids this by saving the moments of major impact for when it needs to happen within the context of the story. Yes, there are plenty of moments where even I felt myself welling up, but at no point did I feel like it was done for cheap reaction or over-the-top performance. It really felt like Shulman and Sie worked together to make sure this telling of their story was done so with respect and reverence to their subjects on each level, and it shows.
However, it is the story itself where I struggle from a critical standpoint. On one side of my thought process, this is two hours that more than feels it. The pacing here is slow with perhaps some aspects of the story that could have been trimmed back (their jobs seem like a throwaway bullet point, while their career paths do serve a purpose), especially in the back half of the film itself. The other side wonders if given the nature of the overall message of this film makes it deliberately slowly paced for the audience to take in each character’s journey so that by the time the credits roll, they feel like they too have walked this path with Jane and Corinne.
Sitting in Bars with Cake is the kind of film that does not need to be viewed alone; but celebrated amongst groups of friends that can identify with the bond these two share with each other and with their circle and understand that nothing in the world can keep them from sticking together. Check it out either on its theatrical run or on Amazon Prime!