a sweet story
Sitting in Bars with Cake is light and fluffy look at female friendship
Bringing a friendship to life in movie requires a special kind of chemistry from the actors. While romance can be difficult as well, that has certain advantages the regular friendships do not. The new film Sitting in Bars with Cake uses a range of storytelling tricks to get audiences to believe in its lead characters, with varying results.
Jane (Yara Shahidi) and Corinne (Odessa A’zion) are best friends, roommates, and co-workers at Capitol Records in Los Angeles. Jane, known for her baked goods, brings a birthday cake for Corinne to a bar, an act that grabs the attention of other bar patrons, especially men. Inspired, the two come up with a plan for Jane to meet men by making a variety of cakes and serving them at bars.
That plan has its ups and downs, not least because Jane can never seem to meet someone she like as much as another Capitol co-worker, Owen (Rish Shah). The plan meets another roadblock when Corinne starts to have a health crisis. The friends’ bond is both enhanced and tested as Jane attempts to continue their tradition, care for Corinne, and pursue romance at the same time.
Directed by Trish Sie and written by Audrey Shulman (based on her real-life story), the film is mostly as light and fluffy as the cakes Jane serves. For most of the film, it seems as if the filmmakers are studiously avoiding any kind of big emotions. So, while it’s perfectly pleasant watching the friends having fun and trying to pick up guys, the deep connections that a story like this needs never materialize.
When the film gets to the heavier part of its plot, the lack of feeling starts to become more evident. The introduction of Corinne’s parents, Fred (Ron Livingston) and Ruth (Martha Kelly), weirdly doesn’t help matters, as their relationship with each other and their daughter feels off from the start. Bette Midler is cast as Benita, Corinne’s boss, but is used so infrequently and oddly that it’s confusing why the character exists at all.
This failure to communicate emotionally is a shame because it might have been a winner in more capable hands. The transition from fun to dramatic has been done well in many other movies, but the filmmakers here don’t make the necessary tweaks to take the story from okay to great. Even the cake part of the film is not given as much attention as you might think.
Shahidi, best known for her roles in both Black-ish and Grown-ish, is a very appealing lead, giving Jane a positive/determined personality without ever become annoying. A’zion is not quite as good, but she eventually settles in to her role. Livingston and Kelly never gel in their performances, with Kelly’s signature monotone preventing the character from being believable.
While Sitting in Bars with Cake is inoffensive and has some interesting moments, it never offers up anything that would make you want to return to it. A friendship like the one depicted should be life-affirming, but all it elicits is a few smiles and a shrug.
Sitting in Bars with Cake streams on Prime Video starting on September 8.