Movie Review: ‘Sitting In Bars With Cake’

Greetings again from the darkness. By coming clean up front, my hope is that forgiveness and understanding is in order, and maybe others will be diverted from the same path I took. Between the film’s title, the trailer, and knowing it was based on Audrey Shulman’s book and true story, my assumption was that this was going to be a straightforward, good old fashioned chick flick. And although comparisons to BEACHES (1988) are not without merit, director Trish Sie (PITCH PERFECT 3, 2017) serves up additional layers (yes, pun intended).

Jane (Yara Shahidi, “Blackish”, Ticker Bell in PETER PAN & WENDY, 2023) and Corinne (Odessa A’zion, HELLRAISER, 2022) are lifelong friends, roommates and polar opposite twenty-somethings. Jane is an introvert who is pleasing her parents by studying for the LSAT in order to become a lawyer. Corinne is an extroverted party girl hoping to move up at the creative agency where she works for a tough boss played by Bette Midler.

Jane is really committed to two things: her friendship with Corinne and baking desserts, especially cakes. Corinne comes up with a strategy to help Jane meet more men. The plan is for Jane to bake 50 cakes over the next year, and the group will take each cake to a different bar to meet new people. They map out the bars geographically by stereotypes of local guys, and hang it on the wall. Corinee calls this “Cake-barring”, and Jane reluctantly agrees to participate, and we are along for the ride and an introduction to the beautiful SoCal people. The plan is progressing swimmingly until Corinne is diagnosed with a life-threatening disease.

Taking care of her friend becomes Jane’s focus, going against the preferences of Corinne’s parents, a bearded Mr. Fix-it played by Ron Livingston, and a deadpan mom played by Martha Kelly (“Baskets”). Corinne insists that the cake-barring continue, even as her health declines. Jane does find a boyfriend (Rish Shah), and during all of this, learns quite a lot about herself.
Cancer plays a more substantial role than the trailer would lead us to believe, and at the core, this film is about friendship and self-discovery. Corinne remains steadfast with cake-barring because she understands her friend Jane needs to build her confidence in social settings – and her delicious cakes are just the ticket.

Audrey Shulman’s book is based on her experiences of a similar year, and though it’s not a cookbook, it does contain 35 recipes. Here, director Sie uses very creative counters/chapters to keep us up to speed on the latest flavor, and the film admits to a year of ‘hospitals and bars”, It’s also the first time I recall hearing the phrase “underwear bully”, so kudos for that! The additional layers mentioned above are quite satisfying despite some of the unavoidable cliches. It’s a pleasure to see grown women in a true friendship built on doing the right thing for the other, and also for themselves.

Releasing exclusively on Prime Video on September 8, 2023

David Ferguson

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