There's no kind of wonderful in Mary Stuart Masterson's directorial debut, The Cake Eaters
. Yet however slight her ensemble drama about two distressed families in the Rockwellian framings of time-forgotten rural America it's at least convincing in its genuine sweetness. When wandering musician Guy Kimbrough (screenwriter Jayce Bartok) learns his ailing mother has finally died, he stumbles back home to the passive-aggressiveness of his awkward younger brother, Beagle (Aaron Stanford), who hasn't forgiven him for abandoning the clan. Grieving patriarch Easy (Bruce Dern) has been secretly schtupping the mildly kooky grandmother of Georgia (standout Kristen Stewart), a sexually curious high-schooler who slurs and walks shakily as she suffers the neural disease Friedreich's ataxia. Like their pop, the Kimbrough boys both have their own romantic complications (Beagle and the years-younger Georgia want to hook up in spite of her mother's disapproval, and Guy reconnects with the ex-fiancée he ditched in his exodus), and because everyone here broods instead of speaking his mind, the perfunctory moments of quiet indie revelation actually add up. Bungee-strapped to her new beau on his scooter, Georgia extends her arms to draw in the sunshine (see also: the forthcoming DVD cover), and as we fade out with Easy and sons bonding over steak and beers, our cockles are warmed the movie forgotten.
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April 2-5, 2009