Thursday, September 7, 2023

Emotion turns maudlin in 'Sitting in Bars'

      Based on a true story, Sitting in Bars with Cake focuses on two friends who decide that taking homemade cakes into bars makes for a great way to meet men.
    Free cake evidently provides an irresistible lure, although the idea of bourbon and water with a slice of cake coated with pumpkin frosting strikes me as a desecration of two pleasures.
   The movie begins with so much peppy cuteness it makes you wonder whether screenplays can have dimples.  The screenplay, by the way, was written by Audrey Shulman, who wrote a 2015 book about her experiences.
      Schulman's plan: Take 50 cakes to 50 bars and see what happens.
     Yara Shahidi and Odessa A'zion play cake-baking Jane and cohort Corrine, roommates with low-level jobs at an LA talent agency where they work for a flinty but good-hearted boss (Bette Midler). 
    What begins as comedy (with lots of cake pictures) turns serious when Corine is diagnosed with a brain tumor.  Director Trish Sie (Pitch Perfect 3handles the switch without destroying the movie, and — truth be told — the downturn comes as  a relief from the movie’s undimmed early brightness.
      Disease also expands the story, bringing parents into the mix David Negahban and Adina Porter play Jane's parents. They expect their daughter to enroll in law school. Martha Kelly and Ron Livingston play Corine's mom and dad. They want her to survive her bout with cancer.
    Some of Sitting in Bars effectively tugs the heart strings, although by the end of its over-long two-hour length, the movie becomes more maudlin than it needs to be.
     Both A'zion and Shahidi make their presences felt, A'zion as the demonstrative Corine and Shahidi as the shy Jane. Bits about self-realization are added for flavoring and topicality.
   While paying tribute to female friendship, Sie tackles a serious subject. But Sitting in Bars breaks little new ground. It often feels like another addition to the now-familiar young woman with cancer genre.
    To be fair, though, for some, Sitting in Bars will succeed in icing its cake with lots of tears. 

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