Whether we remember the ensemble cast chemistry on Friends or the cheesiness of the 1993 slasher flick, Leprechaun, Jennifer Aniston makes us laugh. Known for her sometimes dry and sarcastic brand of comedy, it’s hard to imagine her in extreme physical and emotional pain but her newest role in the film, Cake, shows her artistic range. Hopefully, her performance will touch audiences in a meaningful and lasting way.

In the movie, Aniston plays Claire Simmons, the survivor of a car accident who is in severe pain. She joins a chronic pain support group and becomes obsessed with the details of a member’s (Nina) suicide. In the process, she develops a poignant relationship with Nina’s husband which takes them both on a journey through their own raw emotions and tragic situations.

The film was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival back in September 2014 and has been generating Oscar buzz for Aniston ever since. She is being heralded for her vulnerable portrayal of the deeply troubled character. It is, without a doubt, very difficult to find a way to bring depth and awareness to chronic pain without making it seem desperate, whiny, depressing or hopeless. It takes a lot more skill than many may realize and, despite Aniston’s lengthy tenure in Hollywood, she probably would not have been as ready to deliver this performance earlier in her career.  Her acting and life experiences have shaped her ability to venture into a darker place which may earn her even more fans than she already has.

Director, Daniel Barnz, made it clear that, in order to take on this role, the normally glam actress would have to work without wearing any makeup and her face would be riddled with fake scars. The 45-year-old also had to wear a back brace. Barnz recently applauded the actress’ courage and said that, in addition to completely surrendering to the requirements, the low-maintenance existence seemed to be liberating for Aniston.

The results are stunning. In one clip, Aniston sits along the side of an indoor public pool watching and older couple cuddle while talking about her pain with Mamie Gummer (one of the very talented daughters of Meryl Streep). The dialogue and chemistry between the two women in this short preview is breathtaking.  The cast also includes Sam Worthington and Anna Kendrick, who has proven herself in films such as these (if you haven’t seen 50/50 rent it immediately).

In order to qualify for awards season, the Cake will have a limited released on December 31, 2014 before a full opening in January 2015.