The Chronic Pain Movie Cake Doesn’t Quite Make It?

The Chronic Pain Movie Cake Doesn’t Quite Make It?

Woman in painFor those of us interested in chronic pain, the movie CAKE starring Jennifer Aniston was a long overdue opportunity for a serious and meaningful creative exploration about the condition.

National Pain Report readers who have seen the movie think it fell short. They were generally happy Hollywood tried, saw a lot of truth in the film, but seem to believe it could have been much more.

We received a number of very thoughtful responses from our readers on a story we did last week promoting our survey we’ve been running and reaction from Facebook.

The criticism of the movie that we heard most from our readers (but not from movie critics around the country, which we’ll discuss later) is not every chronic pain sufferer turns into an addict.

Here is an example of opinion from Reader Kelly Dart who had some strong words about the movie:

“This is not a movie about the struggles chronic pain sufferers; it is a movie that sensationalizes the negative stereotype of the disease and the LAST thing that was needed for those with this condition.

There are bits and pieces that rang true, but unlike a fictional character, we that suffer from this incapacitating disease do not have the luxury of arranging our lives around stalking others and having our maids ‘score’ for us. Only a small percent of CP sufferers will become addicted, although many will display characteristics of being so because of pseudo-addiction stemming from under treatment of our pain.

Hired help around the house? Not with the amount of money that goes towards medical bills! Angry, bitter, isolated, depressed, GUILTY? Hell yes!!! Because of the disease causing my chronic pain? Slightly; mostly it’s because of inability to mother my four sons the way I used to because of the fear the DEA/Government/Society has instilled in my PM Doctor as far as prescribing the amount of medicine needed for me to have my pain level drop enough to physically function, because the pain is NEVER gone no matter what or how much medicine I take.

The diabetic who does not adhere to lifestyle changes is just given more insulin; we CP sufferers do everything recommended and MANDATED (urine tests) and are still told no because of what other people do with medications thar make our bodies livable. Withhold insulin increases until the patient abides by the Doctors recommendations? There would be outcry and lawsuits….”

Not all of the commentary was negative-one survey respondent said:

“This is absolutely a movie I would bring my friend and family to see so they could at least understand the day-to-day fight we face living with chronic pain.”

Generally though, the readers and people who took the survey thought it just missed a great opportunity to tell the nuanced truth about living in chronic pain.

“The directors were content to take an old mistaken stereotype (drug addiction) and make it a major plot point. Very disappointing if you ask me.”


People who review moves for a living weren’t very impressed with the movie either, but not for the reasons the readers stated.

We will keep the survey alive for another week or so, and hope that if you see the movie, let us know what you think. (Click here to take the survey).

If you haven’t seen the movie, you’re not alone. The movie generated only $1.3 million dollars last weekend, to rate 19th among movies this weekend.

Good for Jennifer Aniston for taking the risk to do the movie. And, good for Hollywood at least trying to explore the issue.

But chronic pain is complex and shouldn’t be reduced to stereotypes, a temptation our readers apparently believe the filmmakers couldn’t resist.

Authored by: Ed Coghlan

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This is a movie, first and foremost, about a woman mourning the loss of her son - which absolutely could cause one to seek out a reprieve from the (emotional) pain in the form of drugs. It is unfortunate that it tells a secondary story of chronic pain because if viewers are unable to identify the reasoning behind the character’s drug-seeking behaviors, it just looks like an over-medicated junkie and perpetuates all sorts of stereotypes.

Ryan Lankford

Maybe I should start writing for you guys…seems like every time I take one of those surveys, one of my quotes ends up in the story about the survey lol

Lynn Crisci

I suffer with chronic pain due to a 2006 stage accident, which left me with disabling injuries, and also due to injuries from the Boston Marathon attack. My doctors made it clear to me that painkillers do not actually kill your pain. They explained that pain medications were only expected to reduce my pain to a tolerable level.

clearly, the movie cake is not about the real life struggles of chronic pain patients. It is a fictional fantasy that sensationalizesthe struggle of those in pain, portraying them all as drug addicts. Most Americans take some kind of prescription drug as prescribed. So do pain patients. The producers of this movie knew they were exploiting and distorting chronic pain patients to represent them as depressed drug addict. I believe Jennifer Aniston just saw this film as a vehicle to put her in contention for an Oscar. I don’t believe she had any foresight as to how it would negatively affect chronic pain patients and their access to their medications.


Glad the movie wasn’t a hit (sorry Jennifer) maybe too many people won’t see it and we still have a shot at educating the public about our quality of life with ME/CFS.