Based on the cookbook of the same name by Audrey Shuhlman, this charming and bittersweet film adaptation is now available for streaming on Amazon Prime. And that is fine. Nothing about this movie begs to be watched on the big screen. This type of film is tailor-made for streaming on television, and I don’t mean that as a negative. Though it most definitely treads very familiar territory, Sitting in Bars with Cake puts a unique spin on the “fighting cancer” story, deliciously sugar-coated with imaginative dessert creations.
Cancer and cakes might sound like an odd combination, but life is all about strange mixtures. The movie tells a “based on true events” story about two longtime friends coping with the struggles and challenges of young adulthood. Yara Shahidi stars as Jane, a brilliant but socially awkward young woman with a gift for crafting new and adapting old cake recipes. Jane lives with her best friend Corinne (Odessa A’zion), a bold and gregarious personality who tries to get Corinne to exit her protective shell.
While Jane has been preparing for the LSAT, as her parents dream she will attend law school, Corinne has an exciting job working for a PR agency in Los Angeles. Since Jane has spent many of her study breaks baking cakes, Corinne decides to use this new hobby to get her best friend to be more social. Jane, Corinne, and their buddies start a new tradition called “Cakebarring.” The plan involves Jane baking a special cake and she and her friends hit up a bar, offer cake to men, and hope this conversation starter leads somewhere. While the results vary, Jane eventually builds up her confidence and begins dating. However, their plans get sidelined when Corinne becomes sick and gets diagnosed with a brain tumor.
Written by Audrey Shuhlman and directed by Trish Sie, Sitting in Bars with Cake is such a lovable and enjoyable movie it is easy to look past the fact that this type of movie (minus the cakes) has been done previously. Nevertheless, the writing is still solid, with some excellent character development of the leads and some of the supporting characters. The mixture of the script, assured direction, and the beautiful performances by the cast make the movie a very palatable, though poignant, treat. The film mostly succeeds because of the acting.
I had never previously heard of Yara Shahidi, but she makes an indelible impression with her outstanding turn as Jane. As for Odessa A’zion, I had already seen her in a few other projects and knew she would be great. She puts much heart and energy into her role as Corinne and shows her range of talent with this performance. Also excellent are Ron Livingston and Martha Kelly as Corinne’s lovable parents, Fred and Ruth. The film also features fine work by Bette Midler, Maia Mitchell, and Rish Shah.
If you’re the type that can get into darling, but ultimately sad, friendship stories, then I recommend this movie. If you’re the type that hates this type of shmaltzy affair, then I wouldn’t bother. As for me, I don’t usually care for these types of movies anymore, but the story, the characters, and the actors in the film won me over.