Review by Cole Groth
Sitting in Bars with Cake is an uncommonly somber dramedy. Starring Yara Shahidi as Jane, a shy baker, and Odessa A'zion as her vivacious best friend Corinne, the movie ventures into the world of 'cakebarring' – an eccentric activity involving baking cakes and taking them to bars in search of love. However, what starts as a lighthearted quest for romance takes a somber turn when Corinne is diagnosed with cancer, and the film delves into the complexities of their friendship throughout a challenging year.
As advertised, the film’s plot initially sets it up as a romantic comedy with a quirky twist. The odd concept of 'cakebarring' adds a unique and humorous touch to the story, with moments of genuine laughter as Jane and Corinne navigate the world of dating. However, what truly distinguishes this film is its willingness to deviate from the conventional rom-com formula. Instead of sticking to the light-hearted and predictable path, it takes a darker and more emotionally challenging route.
For those who expect a traditional rom-com experience, including myself, the unexpected shift in tone is a jarring one. While the humor remains consistent throughout the film, it is juxtaposed with the harsh realities of life, particularly Corinne's cancer diagnosis. This bold narrative choice sets it apart from the typical rom-com, as it delves into deeper and more profound themes of friendship, resilience, and coping with adversity.
Yara Shahidi and Odessa A'zion's performances in the film truly stand out. Shahidi's portrayal of Jane is both endearing and relatable, capturing the essence of a shy and introverted woman thrust into a world of socializing. Her journey of self-discovery and personal growth is heartwarming as she learns to step out of her comfort zone in the pursuit of love and companionship. A'zion, as Corinne, brings vibrancy and energy to the screen, making her a charismatic and lovable character. Their on-screen chemistry is undeniable, and their friendship is the emotional anchor of the film.
Unfortunately, the film's biggest issue is its pacing, partially due to it clocking in at a strangely long two-hour runtime. What starts out as a 90-minute dramedy turns into a too-dark 120-minute slog. Plenty of scenes could’ve, and should’ve, been left on the cutting room floor. Fans of the book by Audrey Shulman will no doubt enjoy this depth, but it isn’t good enough to warrant the length.
Sitting in Bars with Cake might be too heavy of an emotional gut punch, but Trish Sie’s direction makes it feel fairly satisfying. Shahidi and A’zion’s terrific performances anchor the film’s emotional core, keeping the long runtime from feeling like too much of an issue. It ultimately delivers a poignant exploration of friendship, love, and life's unpredictable challenges, offering a thoughtful take on the complexities of human relationships.
Sitting in Bars with Cake releases on Amazon Prime on September 8.