Never meet your idols.
There’s a certain allure about a underdog story, someone that you can root for. In the case of Patti Cake$ Patricia Dumbrowski is the underdog. Often when films concern rap music and underdogs, their stories usual hail from Los Angeles, Detroit or Chicago.
Patti Cake$ decides to put New Jersey on the map, with the rapping skills provided by Patti ‘Killa P’ Dumbrowski featuring her friend and MC, Jheri. And this is also the feature debut of director Jeremy Gasper and immediately caught my attention with the green glow that Patti finds herself bathed in as she dreams about meeting her idol, but then when she leaves and almost floats down the street listening to her music. Until she is brought back down to the ground by being called Dumbo. A name that continually haunts her.
Usually films with this underdog element are usually centred on the characters biding their time and waiting for their opportunity, but Patti Cake$ used a different formula. The central character, played brilliantly by Danielle Macdonald, struggles to find her voice to begin with, as she finds herself caring for not only her nana, but also her mother as she gets drunk at the bar she tends.
Unfortunately, this is where the fresh take stops, as the film suddenly does fall into the run-of-the-mill waiting for a big break story as the film begins to pick up it’s pace. But don’t get me wrong, I was still enjoying the refreshing stance, as instead of a overly-masculine repressed male, it was a confident-in-her-own-way woman. And Danielle Macdonald lapped this role up every step of the way.
And their opportunity is given to them, when they meet Bastard (Mamoudou Athie) who is able to create mixes for Jheri (Siddharth Dhananjay) and Patti. But instead of just using him, they incorporate him into their master plan of the big time and create PBNJ. Their montage of creating the EP was really enjoyable and fairly believable as they huddle in a shack creating beats and lyrics.
But of course, with these formulas, there is that stage where their dream is shook, but I won’t divulge due to potential spoilers. My only issue with Patti Cake$ is that is it effectively a female 8-Mile. Although it is considerably funnier and has a bigger heart than 8-Mile it doesn’t divert away from the narrative structure all that well.
The comedy is one of the biggest hits in the film, but Jeremy Gasper understands when to add in the perfect amount of comedy. Usually through Jheri as he interjects. Potentially one of the best moments is Jheri’s deadpan boss, stating it is not ‘showtime at the apollo’. Naturally, Patti does take majority for the screen time, but each of the characters use their time perfectly and create genuine characters in a relatively short space of time. Again, Gasper understands this and creates a great environment for these underdogs to thrive in.
I did enjoy the film for the 100+ minute runtime, but that being said, it’s not left a memorable print in my mind. The performances are fun and believable with Patti (Danielle Macdonald) and Barb (Bridget Everett) stealing the show and creating that authentic underdog story that everyone can get on board with. Considering that this is a directorial debut from Jeremy Gasper, it’s quite interesting to see what he can do with bigger stars and bigger budgets. Patti Cake$ isn’t exactly ground breaking for the film, but it is certainly funny with what it achieves over the runtime.
Having an interest in rap music, it was enjoyable listening to soundtrack and the music being produced, but I think the key to this film is not the music, but rather that connection with the characters. The performances really accentuate this element and really help Patti Cake$ a good and enjoyable watch.