PATTI CAKE$: 4 STARS. “a high-energy, fist-pumping story of overcoming odds.”
“Patti Cake$,” a story of big dreams and hip hop glory, introduces two major new talents, writer, director (and former front man for indie rock band The Fever) Geremy Jasper and star Danielle Macdonald. Together they present a movie that is gritty, sweet and quite unforgettable.
Macdonald is Patricia Dombroski, a New Jersey wannabe rapper who, depending on her mood goes by Patti Cake$ or Killer P. She’s a walking, talking attitude in plus size clothes, a woman with a way with words and a dream of bettering her circumstances through hip hop. “Just to make myself clear,” she raps, “Get me the BLEEP outta here.”
Her mother Barb (Bridget Everett), once an up-and-coming singer, is now a drunk who spends her days caring for the wheelchair-bound Nana (Cathy Moriarty) in their ramshackle house.
With musical partner Hareesh (Siddharth Dhananjay) and an off-the-grid punk rocker who goes by Antichrist (Mamoudou Athie) she performs as PBNJ, a band with a demo but no street cred or prospects. When a “showcase” at a strip club goes sideways Patti leaves the group, trading hopes of MTV stardom for a catering job. Music is never far away, however, and still might be the remedy for Killer P’s heartache and crushed dreams.
It’s hard to classify “Patti Cake$” as a feel good movie but underneath the story’s grit and grime is an aspirational tale that won’t leave the taste of saccharine in your mouth. It’s a raw, emotional coming-of-age story of the type we’ve seen before, with styles we’ve seen before— fantasy cutaways and impossibly grim circumstances to overcome—but director Jasper and Australian born star Macdonald keep it compelling.
Perhaps it’s because “Patti Cake$” is, in part, based on the director’s life that Patti’s attempts to claw herself out of her Dickensian existence feel so authentic. Patti is a resilient underdog, a sympathetic lead brought to vivid and appealing life by Macdonald. What begins as one rapper’s a run-of-the-mill journey to get out from under the weight of her dreams snakes around to become a high-energy, fist-pumping story of overcoming odds with dignity and on your own terms.