Miss Barton’s Famous Cakes is a compelling enough noir ode to be more than just a love letter to the genre.
Published on September 1, 2022
Rating 4 /5
There are a lot of angles with which to appreciate Miss Barton’s Famous Cakes. It’s beautiful on a design level, perfectly playing the story in a 1950s setting. There’s a charm to its noir edge, portrayed in stark black and white with a thrilling psychological tale of deception and death. It’s also a lot of fun in how it plays with the genre, adopting noir mannerisms and dialogues that are played up with a tongue-in-cheek aspect.
The setting immediately draws you in with the ominous nature. It’s a dark and stormy night. Miss Barton (Lauren LaVera) is in her kitchen, contemplating her baking. A knock is heard at the door. Into her house come two detectives (Michael Doherty and Charlie McElveen) seeking to question Barton. They come to her to let her know that her cakes are killing off inmates at a mental institution. Curious, the detectives request some of Barton’s best cakes as a snack. While they request, however, more of the case is revealed. It turns out two of the fugitives may be closer than Barton thinks and that her baking makes her more of a femme fatale than she may realize.
A lot of praise needs to be placed on the very staging of this story. So many short films aim to replicate eras and usually put in the bare minimum or cut corners to transport us through time. Period pieces of medieval war may be set in woods too clean or noir films could be so bathed in darkness in order to conceal that modern set. Here, Barton’s home feels like a 1950s household. Her dress feels like something a housewife/homemaker would wear. Even the detectives feel like 1950s detectives indicative of the post-noir era.
What makes this staging so great is that it can then find ways to play around with the story. The detectives are believable enough that the direction can play with our expectations and even exaggerate the characters so they don’t just feel like actors playing dress-up. There’s also enough faith in the setting to hold for moments of suspense, where the storm can punctuate and looks of terror can have a lasting effect. The dialogue is also witty enough to carry this film past ten minutes and keep the audience completely engaged.
Miss Barton’s Famous Cakes is a compelling enough noir ode to be more than just a love letter to the genre. It’s a stylish and clever short that manages to have just as much power and allure as any feature-length film. This is one tasty treat of a short film, made by people who clearly love noir and love playing around with its many elements.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.