Saturday, March 14, 2009

'The Cake Eaters' Reviews

Here are the first reviews! Veryyyy good about Kristen's performance as Georgia!

Please keep in mind that reviews can contain spoilers, lots of spoilers, and that negative reviews can be interesting to read.
If you have more reviews, feel free to email me. :)


••, Erin Trahan: In her first film as a feature director, Mary Stuart Masterson brings a sympathetic eye to the lives of her characters. As for Stewart, it's clear her beginnings have come to an end. There's a reason she's booked for eternity.

•• AZ Central, Bill Goodykoontz: Rating 4/5
Done right, an independent film arrives seeming already well-worn, comfortable and familiar.

That's certainly the case with "The Cake Eaters," actress Mary Stuart Masterson's low-key feature debut as a director. The movie brings together two families in a rural town coming to terms with loss in its various forms. That includes "losing it" - yes, of the sexual coming-of-age variety - depicted in a decidedly different way.

Guy (Jayce Bartok, who also wrote the script) returns to his upstate New York home after learning of his mother's death weeks before. Although his return delights his father, Easy (a delightful Bruce Dern), the reaction of his younger brother Beagle (Aaron Stanford) is more complicated. While Guy pursued his dreams of becoming a musician in the city, Beagle took care of their dying mother.

Guy also must deal with Stephanie (Miriam Shor), the fiancee he abandoned when he left town.

Meanwhile, Georgia (an outstanding Kristen Stewart), who suffers from Friedreich's ataxia, a neural disease, struggles to lead as independent a life as possible. She's hampered by her mother, Violet (Talia Balsam), who is both overly protective and ultimately self-centered. She's hoping that nude photos she takes of Georgia will bring attention to the disease - and to her.

Georgia connects better with her grandmother, the free-spirited Marg (Elizabeth Ashley). As it turns out, Easy connects with her pretty well himself, and has for years. This is another blow to Beagle, who feels betrayed.

But Beagle has his own affairs to tend to. He and Georgia hit it off at a swap meet, and she's determined that they will become lovers, the age difference and fact that he works in the cafeteria of her school notwithstanding.

It could be an exploitative plot line, but it's not, largely because of the strength of Stewart's performance. She is determined to experience as much of life as she can in the time that she has left. Her single-mindedness is admirable, if unorthodox.

The strength of the movie lies in its small moments, played to perfection, particularly by Stewart and Dern. "What are we, elephants?" makes no sense out of context, but it's a laugh-out-loud line that Dern nails. A struggling farmer's simple explanation of why he's butchering a prize cow is almost heartbreaking. And when Beagle picks up Georgia for a date on his scooter and straps her to him with a bungee cord, it's quietly moving.

Masterson has a nice eye for framing shots, and she gets a lot out of all the actors. But it's Stewart who really shines. The role is demanding, both physically and emotionally. She excels at both aspects of the performance, giving Georgia a strength that defies any sort of pity one might feel for her, without letting us forget her vulnerability.

Yet "The Cake Eaters" is still very much an ensemble piece. These are people whose company you enjoy, in good times and bad. Taking place over a short period of time, it's a small slice of life, yes. But as the title implies, it's a tasty one as well.

•• As Good As News: The Cake Eaters -Mary Stuart Masterson makes a small budget picture that succeeds on its own terms in her debut as a director.

The Cake Eaters has some distracting loose ends. Jesse Martin has a small part that adds little but unanswered questions to the story line. Georgia's relationship with her mother starts as fast and fascinating and dead ends with no real exploration. Melissa Leo gets a mystery credit as an actress when she should have been listed as a crew member - "leaf raker". These oddities suggest some very major editing was done after the shoot - probably to focus more narrowly on the story line growing out of the relationship between Georgia and Beagle at the expense of other elements from the original script. Good decision, Ms Masterson. Kristen Stewart is brilliant as Georgia in a role reminiscent of your own work in Benny & Joon. The cast (particularly Dern, Stanford and Ashley), score (including works by Duncan Sheik and Glen Hansard), and cinematography all had exactly what it takes to make this film work. If you don't see it in the theater it is worth renting the DVD. No details on release date or distribution plan available at this time.

If you google "cake eaters" you will see many references, but if you know that Jayce Bartok is originally from Pittsburgh and you notice that Elizabeth Ashley, in character as a tipsy Marg, roars mysteriously that her family is from Upper St. Clair, then you know cake eater can mean only one thing. In the Pittsburgh area, "cake eater" is a derisive term applied by blue collar kids to the privileged upper middle class, especially those from suburbs like Mt. Lebanon or Upper St. Clair. As Good As News is betting that Jayce Bartok is from Upper St. Clair, that the original script was set in Western Pennsylvania and that it included an even greater emphasis on the class difference between the Kimbrough and Kaminsky families. This theme was developed as a significant element in the Easy-Marg relationship, but was there even more on the cutting room floor?

•• Moviefone, Erik Davis: [..] Credit also has to go to the performances; mainly Stanford and Stewart. In a film where most of the action revolves around what's not being said, Stanford breathes life into a character who goes to great lengths to hide his emotions. Here's a kid who continues to chew tobacco because it's the only stability he still has left. Here's a kid who's so used to taking care of other people that when it finally comes time to take care of himself, he doesn't know how to act, what to do, or how to feel. On the other hand, Stewart plays the part of a teenage girl coping with a terminal disease so convincingly, you never see the actress in her. It's a performance so painful and so real that I'm surprised her name hasn't come up in award conversations. Unlike Beagel, she's extremely vocal -- tells people how she feels and what she wants -- in order to not seem weak; to fit in. The tug-of-war relationship she has with her mother (an aspiring photographer who takes semi-nude photos of her daughter in an attempt to either spread word about the disease or became famous herself) is a fascinating one that I wish was explored a bit more. Then again, slice of life films are all about the little moments; Masterson lets us hang out with these characters, but she doesn't dissect them. This way, when the movie finally ends, you're left with a host of unanswered questions; the answers to which you'll have to discover yourself.

•• IMDb, Larry Richman: I attended a screening of The Cake Eaters at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival last night. Here is a brief report.

The Cake Eaters is legendary actress Mary Stuart Masterson's directorial debut and was the festival's "Centerpiece Screening." They turned it into a full-blown celebration. The night began with a film retrospective of Mary's best work. It got a huge ovation. Then she took to the stage, along with writer Jayce Bartok (who also acts in the film). They introduced the screening. Afterward they returned for a lively Q&A. To cap off the night, there was an elegant party hosted by the festival with Mary as the guest of honor. There was great music, food, and wine, and we all became cake eaters, of course. With warm chocolate syrup -- luscious.

I had attended the World Premiere of The Cake Eaters at the Tribeca Film Festival in April, so this was actually my second time seeing it. It's the perfect indie -- small (read: low budget), all shot on location in upstate New York (rustic countryside, backwoods farmhouse setting), natural lighting, character driven, shot somewhat in real time, with train whistles and big dogs and peeling paint. At its heart it's a very sweet love story which basically focuses on two couples -- one very young and experiencing their first encounter (Kristen Stewart and Aaron Stanford) and one in their golden years still keeping the flame alive (Elizabeth Ashley and Bruce Dern). An incredible ensemble cast surrounds them, including writer Bartok and the sublime Melissa Leo. Along the way there is loss and sorrow, but it's never too heavy. The Cake Eaters engages you and leaves you with a tear in your eye and a smile on your face.

Ashley and Dern show what true veterans of the cinema can bring to a film. And Kristen's performance is simply breathtaking. She plays a girl with a neurological disorder (similar to Muscular Dystrophy or MS) and audiences believe she really has it -- that's how convincing she is.

I have little doubt it will get picked up for distribution. For one thing, it has major names attached to it (especially Mary, Elizabeth Ashley, Bruce Dern, Melissa Leo, and the amazing Kristen Stewart). It's a feel-good film in a time of dark indies. Very mass appeal. Audiences will love it.

•• Vue Weekly: Mary Stuart Masterson proves capable but uninspired in her feature film directorial debut, a story of a family of men dealing with their matriarch’s death: though she rarely misses the mark, most of her shots come across as pretty flat and uninspired, more suited to a movie of the week than the big screen. Still, she pulls some good performances out of her actors, especially young Kristen Stewart as a girl with a neuromuscular disease. Stewart manages to be both natural and vulnerable, and does a much better job of engaging the audience than Masterson’s often-lifeless images.

•• Film Journal, Eric Monder: Pleasant, low-key drama about two small-town families with secrets. Though familiar in many respects, Mary Stuart Masterson’s feature directorial debut has a quiet charm.

Underused by Hollywood as an actor, Mary Stuart Masterson has turned her attention to behind the camera, filming this indie project with an impressive cast. The Cake Eaters is somewhat predictable and conventional, but also well-acted and likeable.

Masterson also wisely uses the many players—no one overpowers the setting or distracts from the story with a star presence, and the acting quality is at a high level throughout. The leads, Stanford (the X-Men series) and Stewart (Twilight), are the most touching in their portrayals of troubled young love. Dern and Ashley, as the older lovers, are always welcome. Bartok himself seems to be cleverly updating his very similar role in Richard Linklater’s Suburbia, and recent Oscar nominee Melissa Leo has a bit role as the dying Kimbrough matriarch. Only former “Law & Order” star Jesse L. Martin looks out of place as a health-care worker.

Technically, The Cake Eaters is better-than-average, from Pete Masterson’s darkly lit cinematography to David Stein’s convincing production design. The director’s very spare use of music (mostly just one composition by Duncan Sheik) is also highly effective.

Even if it lacks originality and its title suggests another kind of movie, The Cake Eaters represents a neat little package.

•• New York Post, V.A. Musetto: With so much junk cluttering movie houses, it is a shame that it took two years for this sweet, intelligent drama to get a release before heading for DVD. But such is the sad state of the movie business.

•• Roger Ebert: Rating 3/4
Kristen Stewart has been in feature films since 2003, but last year, still only 18, she became a big star as a vampire's girlfriend in "Twilight." Now comes her remarkable performance in "The Cake Eaters," made two years ago, to show her as a very different kind of lover in a very different kind of film.

So there are three simultaneous romances: Beagle and Georgia, Easy and Marge, and I forgot to mention Guy, who has a local girl named Stephanie (Miriam Shor) furious at him because he proposed marriage and then left for New York without even saying goodbye.

You might think with all of these plot lines and colorful characters, the movie turns into a carnival. Not at all. I won't say why. I'll only say it all leaves us feeling good about most of them. Masterson, like many actors, is an assured director even in her debut; working with her brother Pete as cinematographer, she creates a spell and a tenderness and pushes exactly as far as this story should go.

•• Cole Smiley: Rating 5/5
An old-fashioned minor key drama, "The Cake Eaters" is the exact type of film that is the cornerstone of modern American Independent cinema. Seasoned actress Mary Stuart Masterson makes a notable directorial debut with Jayce Bartok's story about two small-town families in upstate New York. The impossibly romantic Kristen Stewart plays Georgia Kaminski, a terminally ill 15-year-old girl whose over-protective art photographer mother insists on using Georgia as the sole model for her photographs. While in the care of her understanding grandmother Marge (wonderfully played by Elizabeth Ashley) Georgia meets Beagle (played by Aaron Stanford) and strikes up a romantic liaison. Little does Georgia know that her grandmother is involved in a long-term affair with Beagle's dad Easy (played by Bruce Dern). The recent death of Easy's wife Cici from cancer, and the belated return of his son Guy (played by Jayce Bartok) coincides with the romantic inertia that blossoms. Naturalistic performances from its terrific ensemble of actors, concise camerawork and elegant storytelling coalesce to form a truly inspired independent film.

•• About Entertainment, Marcy Dermansky: Masterson can add filmmaker to this list of impressive accomplishments. Her directorial debut The Cake Eaters had a successful run on the film festival circuit last year and will have a brief theatrical release, before being released on DVD later this month.

I was genuinely nervous for Masterson during the opening scene of The Cake Eaters. She places the two male leads at a kitchen table: twenty-year-old Beagle (Aaron Stafford) and his elderly father Easy (Bruce Dern) eat cereal. They chew loudly and talk while they eat -- about the cereal. I could hear all the warning bells: quirky indie comedy set in small American town about eccentric cast of characters. Oh no!

Deliciously Sweet Without Turning Saccharine - For the record: a film set in a small town about an eccentric cast of characters does not have to be wretched. Deliciously sweet, The Cake Eaters proves this point without turning saccharine. Jayce Bartok's screenplay is filled with what appear to be stock characters: the hip young rocker son who leaves town (Bartok), the ex- hair-dresser who doesn't (Miriam Shor), the taciturn father (Dern) who shows his children little in the way of affection, the wealthy town matriarch (Elizabeth Ashley) who drives a convertible, and most notable, the young girl dying a slow death of a debilitating disease (Kristen Stewart). The film could have been a disaster. But by the strength of solid writing, able direction, and roundly excellent performances, none of these characters come across as stereotypes; instead, flawed and impetuous, they are easy to care about.

Kristen Stewart's Lovely Performance As Georgia - At the heart of the film are young lovers Beagle and dying Georgia (Stewart). Fifteen-year-old Georgia appears at first to be an ordinary pretty girl, until you realize she can't walk without assistance and suffers from spasms. She speaks as if permanently drunk -- symptoms of her condition, Friedreich's Ataxia. Georgia chooses Beagle, a manchild who is crippled in his own ways, to take her virginity. Rather than a gift, however, she's is putting an awful burden on the already burdened young man, encouraging him to love her, even though the sad outcome is so clear.

Maybe this sounds terrifically maudlin; Stewart's performance is anything but. The young actress achieved A-List stardom as Bella Swan in Twilight. She deserves it. Like Masterson, Stewart has been acting since childhood. She is wonderful in a franchise film about young vampire love, but she's even better in The Cake Eaters. Look for her opposite Jesse Eisenberg in Greg Mottola's Adventureland, opening on March 27. The role of Georgia asks a lot of the young actress, and Stewart does it all: shakes as she walks, slurs every line of dialogue, and manages still to be utterly believable as a fifteen-year-old seductress. She is lovely, as is Masterson's beautifully crafted first film.

•• Hollywood & Fine: Movie critics tend to complain a lot – it’s part of the job description.

So here’s today’s complaint: Everyone knows that this time of year is a dumping ground for movies. Theaters are awash in genre garbage and remakes (“Last House on the Left,” anyone?) or big-budget eye-candy whose producers or studios lack the stones to face the summer blockbuster competition (or, to put a kinder spin on it, they have the savvy to exploit a slack period in the schedule).

And now the complaint: Why does a spirited, intelligent little film like “The Cake Eaters” have to beg for a theatrical release? It opens in New York and a few other places this Friday and platforms from there – after more than two years of trying to find distribution (and shortly before its DVD release).

Though “The Cake Eaters” occurs over the course of a weekend, it’s less about the plot than the feelings that its characters go through as they examine the past and assess the future. It has the texture and pace of a short story, and a miniaturist’s attention to detail in the performances and the telling.

Masterson isn’t making sweeping statements or offering judgments about these characters. Rather, she allows the audience to be flies on the wall during some extraordinary moments for otherwise ordinary folks. Even the Georgia character – facing a foreshortened future that includes a wheelchair and premature death – isn’t about her disease. She’s about living in this moment and making the most of it.

Though grief is the subtext of the film, life is the subject. Masterson draws beautifully modulated performances from her strong ensemble cast, particularly Stewart and Stanford as the unsure but indomitable young lovers.

Stewart blends delicate emotions with strength of character in a subtle performance that focuses on the character’s wicked wit, without ignoring her physical infirmity. Stanford makes Beagle both inexperienced and sincere, a guy who is pleasantly surprised to discover that a girl’s expectations of him match the ones he has for himself but has kept hidden for too long.

“The Cake Eaters” balances sweetness and sadness without ever leaning too heavily on either quality. It’s unfortunate that the market seems to willfully ignore nicely etched little films such as this one – and a feat to be celebrated that this one has broken through for a theatrical run at last.

•• The Sundial, Amanda Marie Alvarado: Mary Stuart Masterson’s directorial debut, ‘The Cake Eaters,’ misplaces the third act. Possibly Masterson wanted to avoid the Hollywood endings her successful acting career was built upon, or maybe the independent film ran over budget. The true reason for the wonder credits (those that roll leaving the viewer to wonder where the rest of the film went) probably stems from sloppy writing.

The speculative tragedy is forecasting not only how this film would have ended, but how it would have been received differently. Kristen Stewart gives a phenomenal, career changing performance as ‘Georgia,’ a girl with the neurological disease Friedreich’s ataxia. In one of the story fragments, 15-year-old Georgia decides to run off with Beagle (Aaron Stanford) ‘- a sweet cafeteria worker at her school. The story is frosted with conflict that the film never pursues.

Anthology films, or films with multiple plots, do tend to leave some plots open to guesswork, but none of Masterson’s plots have an ending. As a result, the film fails to make an impact thematically, which is usually the intention of an ensemble movie. It starts as a coming-of-age film about a dying girl and her search for love, and refuses to give us any semblance of closure.

To top the growing criticism of the unfulfilling journey this film provides, the title is never explained. ‘The Cake Eaters’ might derive from the saying that people like to have their cake and eat it too. Yet, the title does not seem related to any of the fragments of story presented in Masterson’s film. However it does fit into the running theme: confusion and dissatisfaction.

•• CinemaDave - On a recent **Tonight Show,** 15 year old actress Dakota Fanning said that she “...wished she could be invisible.” Jany Leno replied, “In Hollywood, that will happen after you turn 40!” The comment was met with nervous laughter, moans and groans, perhaps because of the truism of the comment. Now that Julia Roberts turned 40 this year, who will be the next Julia Roberts?

Kristen Stewart, who turns 19 years old on April 9, 2009, seems primed to accept the tiara of Julia Roberts. Miss Stewart has worked with another former child prodigy Jodie Foster (**Panic Room**), has completed her second movie (**New Moon**) of the Stephenie Meyer's vampire trilogy and she has a new movie opening opening on the big screen (**Adventureland**) and a small movie being released on DVD (**The Cake Eaters.**), which premiered at the 22nd Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival.

Directed by Mary Stuart Masterson **The Cake Eaters** is an ensemble drama featuring reliable character actors like Bruce Dern and Elizabeth Ashley, Kristen Stewart has the stand out role as a high school student with a muscular disease. Slurring her speech and walking awkwardly, Miss Stewart manages to get beyond the physical portrayal of the character to reveal teenage angst with conviction and complicated motivation. Underneath her disability, Miss Stewart's character has simple desire, she merely wants teenage sex in the back seat of a car. **The Cake Easters** is a beautiful film with all the tragedy and comedy that life has to offer.