Sitting in Bars with Cake REVIEW – Tearfully Sweet

Always stay for the cake.

Sitting in Bars with Cake
Sitting in Bars with Cake

Sitting in Bars with Cake falls into the passing-of-best friend genre of movies — movies like Beaches, Steel Magnolias, and many more. You know, the kind of movie that will hit you in the feels and make you ugly cry while you stuff your face with cake. Coincidentally, Beaches star Bette Midler is also in this movie.

Even though tragedy is a key part of the narrative, what I love about Sitting in Bars with Cake is that it never feels melodramatic or overwrought. It’s a beautiful, sweet film, made in tribute to writer Audrey Shulman’s best friend Chrissy, who passed away in 2015 after her battle with brain cancer.

Jane (Yara Shahidi) and Corrine (Odessa A’zion) have been best friends their entire life. When Corrine decides to move to L.A in pursuit of her dream job in the music industry, Jane follows. While Jane’s parents are eager for her to become a lawyer, Jane herself isn’t too keen on the idea. But she feels like she can’t say anything because she’ll disappoint them. What Jane is very good at is baking cakes, and for Corrine’s birthday, she bakes a cake and brings it with her to the bar. Strangely, the cake is a hit, and becomes a great way to break the ice with strangers.

This leads to Corrine suggesting the art of cakebarring, with the pair planning to bring 50 different cakes into 50 different bars over the course of a year. Sometimes they strike gold immediately during cakebarring, other times it’s a bit of a task. Both Corrine and Jane are just living that 20s life, until Corrine gets diagnosed with brain cancer. Suddenly, their world feels a little darker, but Corrine is determined to go on living her life. She convinces Jane they still need to continue with cakebarring since it will give her something to look forward to, and Jane agrees because there is very little she won’t do for her best friend.

Even though Corrine’s battle with brain cancer is a main aspect of the narrative, the film itself never makes it the main subject. It keeps the friendship between Jane and Corrine at the forefront of things, and the charm of the film lies in the quiet moments between Corrine and Jane, like when Jane is sorting out Corrine’s medication while she’s in the tub, or Corrine dragging Jane out of bed in the middle of the night to pursue a French fry craving. A’zion and Shahidi do a fantastic job of making Corrine and Jane’s friendship feel lived in and authentic, so much so that we will believe that years of history exist between them.

But it isn’t just Corrine’s friendship with Jane that’s the highlight of this film, her relationship with her parents is pretty great too. Her parents Fred (Ron Livingston) and Ruth (Martha Kelly) are such quirky individuals who bring warmth and humour to the spaces of the film. Livingston’s performance as Fred is absolutely heartbreaking, as he’s caught between wanting to protect his daughter yet knowing that this is the one thing he can’t shield her from.

There’s this whole romantic subplot between Jane and this guy Owen (Rish Shah), and while it is meant to show us Jane’s growing independence and courage to live her life, his presence in the film adds very little to it, and I found myself wishing less time was spent in that direction. Even Corrine’s on and off relationship with somewhat boyfriend Dave (Aaron Dominguez) intrigued me more.

I watched this movie mainly for the cake, but I stayed for the friendship.

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Sitting in Bars with Cake
The best thing about Sitting in Bars with Cake is that the friendship at the centre of things feels real and genuine enough to pull tears from the viewer.