I’m a feminist, so I really hate the term “chick-flick” as it relates to movies that center on women’s stories and feature women in lead roles. I generally think a well-told story will transcend any demographic and be relatable to people, even if they don’t look like the characters on screen. All that said, one of my favorite movies from the 1980s is the certifiable chick-flick “Beaches.” It’s not particularly good, but it holds a soft spot in my heart — and if I need a good cry, I can put it in with guaranteed results. When I read the synopsis for “Sitting in Bars with Cake” by director Trish Sie, I got some “Beaches” notes and knew I had to check it out.
Jane (Yara Shahidi) is a reserved young woman studying for law school and living with her energetic and slightly flaky roommate Corinne (Odessa A’zion). Corinne wants to help Jane break out of her shell, so she suggests that Jane indulge her passion of baking and bake a cake each weekend to take to a bar to meet guys. The two enjoy this new way of dating, until one night, Jane is awakened by Corinne having a seizure. Jane and Corinne now have to navigate a new dynamic in their friendship as they deal with illness and parents — all while figuring out how to be their most authentic selves.
This is a beautiful movie. It does give me some strong “Beaches” vibes, increased by the inclusion of Bette Midler as Corinne’s boss. The themes of a longtime female friendship between two opposites is there, as well as a life-threatening illness. But where “Beaches” has a relatively thin story, “Sitting in Bars with Cake” is much richer.
The performances were all wonderful. Ron Livingston and Martha Kelly are wonderful as Corinne’s parents, portraying a great balance of humor, anger and compassion for their daughter’s illness. The bulk of the emotional weight, however, falls on Shahidi and A’zion and they are more than up to the task. They both turn in excellent showings, giving us well-rounded characters, even in well-worn story lines.
This movie is loosely based on the 2013 blog by Audrey Shulman who wrote the script for the movie. Despite this being based on a true story, the story beats are very familiar. I believe that familiarity is what makes this movie accessible to everyone, even those who aren’t 20-something young women. Maybe you haven’t gone “cakebarring,” but you have hatched crazy plans with a friend. Maybe you haven’t walked through the death of a close friend, but you have experienced loss. Maybe you haven’t had an uncomfortable conversation with your parents about changing your career goals, but you have had other tough discussions with them.
And while our reasons for needing a cry might differ, we all need do that sometimes. Whatever your reason might be, “Sitting in Bars with Cake” can probably help you get there.
ALISE CHAFFINS is a Morgantown writer who reviews a movie from a streaming service every Saturday and one newly in theaters every Sunday. Find more at MacGuffin or Meaning on Substack.