Warning: This review contains spoilers for “Sitting in Bars with Cake” (2023).
Who do we live for?
“Sitting in Bars with Cake” is a movie partially based on Audrey Shulman’s 2015 book of the same name. The book is autobiographical, about Shulman going out with her best friend in Los Angeles, taking cakes to random bars as a way to meet guys, sharing recipes in between short essays that detail her life experiences over the course of a year.
In the film, we follow Corinne (Odessa A’zion) and Jane (Yara Shahidi), who have been best friends since childhood and now live together in a small apartment in L.A. Corinne works as an agent’s assistant at a big music label, while Jane works as the company mailwoman.
After celebrating her birthday with Jane and her friends, Corinne encourages Jane to continue showing up at bars all around L.A. with cake in hand as a way to meet guys, noting that her best friend has newfound confidence when the baked treat is present.
The first twenty minutes of the film are packed with character development. We see Corinne push Jane out of her comfort zone as they go out to bars, with this simple decision making Jane more confident in herself. Then, we hit our first big bump in the movie — from here on “cakebarring” takes a back seat to the characters themselves.
After a night out celebrating a big job promotion for Corinne, the two girls return home complaining about Corinne’s boyfriend Dave (Aaron Dominguez) and his constant flakiness in their relationship. Then, before the audience can even think twice, we hear an off-screen thud. For a split second, we see Jane in a panic as the camera pans over to reveal Corinne having a seizure.
And it’s here we learn that Corinne has brain cancer.
From this moment forward, we primarily focus on Corinne’s battle with cancer, how it affects her life and relationships and the toll it takes in every aspect of her life. We watch as her parents become overbearing in their fear, and how Jane, setting a high bar as a best friend, never leaves her side. Throughout it all, Jane sticks by Corinne and keeps hope alive for them both.
One thing this movie does extremely well is character introductions. From the start, we understand the relationship dynamic between Corinne and Jane, with the former being very outgoing while the latter is more reserved. The way the characters choose to interact with others immediately clues us into Corinne and Jane’s relationship as opposites who balance each other out.
The best character introduction we get, however, has to be Corinne’s father, Fred (Ron Livingston). The first thing we see from Fred is him attempting to fix the chairs in the hospital waiting room. While his wife, Ruth (Martha Kelly), handles health logistics, he keeps his hands moving and full of tools. While Fred and Ruth stay with the two girls during the first part of Corinne’s treatment, Fred fixes the walls, tables and even Jane’s car, in an attempt to make things right.
Livingston gives a wonderful performance as a father with the need to fix everything, unable to grapple with the fact that his daughter’s cancer is the one thing he cannot fix, not with all the tools in the world.
A’zion also gives an amazing performance. As we watch Corinne’s thinly veiled attempts to remain positive and upbeat, it is clear how much she despises the hand life has dealt her. Corinne’s situation is a clear example of the fact that the worst can come out of seemingly nowhere and change your life in a single night. As Corinne herself puts it, when her cancer is on display for the world she is reminded that she is “a sick person” for people to feel bad for.
As we inch towards the end of the film, the girls and their friends go “cakebarring” one final time. Back at the karaoke bar they began in, Corinne takes a moment with Jane to sing a duet of Wham!’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” (1984). Here, the hope for everything to fix itself seems to grow to immeasurable amounts. As the two bask in the comfort of those they love, you can’t help but want everything to turn out okay.
During the final moments we see these two share, the love Jane holds for her best friend bleeds out, uncontrolled. The connection these two hold completely transcends life, death and all planes of existence. As Corinne takes her last breath and the two exchange their final words, the overwhelming feeling of grief will weigh down your heart.
At the end of it all, the movie is a reminder to live and push yourself — if not for yourself, then for those you love.
With a cup of rom-com, a tablespoon of complete melodrama and a dash of hope and love, “Sitting in Bars with Cake” has the perfect recipe for a movie that makes you feel every high and every low.