An intentionally tear-jerking tale about a vivacious young woman's untimely terminal illness, this film finds its footing only once the illness is discovered. Before that, Sitting in Bars with Cake's first 25-ish minutes come across as a comedy without any real depth or purpose, just beautiful people having fun.
The film has some other inconsistencies, like an underused star (Bette Midler) and secondary characters with no definition (are the ladies in the friend group even given names? In contrast, Livingston's fix-it dad, who can't fix his daughter, is a more meaningful presence).
Cutting down on that first quarter could have shortened the film, allowing the latter half room to breathe rather than drag.
Having said that, A'zion and especially Shahidi deliver skilled performances as the film's two leads. A'zion's Corinne reacts to her diagnosis the way many people might want to -- by marching forward and pretending everything's normal. This makes her occasional breakdowns more upsetting.
A'zion captures and offers a couple of brutally honest lines about how it feels to be "a sick person," someone everyone feels bad for and whose job becomes accepting people's charity because it makes them feel better.
Gorgeous Shahidi, who also executive produced the film, imbues Jane with a quiet but believable strength and wisdom. She's the real heart of the story.
The film is inspired by real-life events (and a cookbook), but the characters and chronologies have been changed for maximum effect.
Read the full review at Common Sense Media.
Images courtesy of Amazon Prime Video.