Patti Cake$

Review by Katherine McLaughlin @Coconutboots

Directed by

Geremy Jasper

Starring

Bridget Everett Danielle Macdonald Siddharth Dhananjay

Anticipation.

Received standing ovations at Cannes and Sundance.

Enjoyment.

A beautiful story that plays out like a Bruce Springsteen song.

In Retrospect.

A rousing opera out on the turnpike.

Danielle Macdonald announces herself in storming fashion in this spirited film about finding your voice.

Australian actor Danielle Macdonald purses her lips like a superstar as the titular Patti, or “Killa P” as she likes to be referred to in her rap songs. Patti’s best friend and fellow rapper Jheri (Siddharth Dhananjay) believes she is destined for greatness, emphatically announcing her entrance as she bowls in to the pharmacy where he works.

Everyone who knows and loves Patti pictures her this way, apart from her alcoholic mother Barb (Bridget Everett) and those who decide not to take her seriously because of her plus-size figure. Her nickname in the neighbourhood is “Dumbo”, but Patti rarely gives such insults a second thought, instead choosing to focus on her dream of becoming a world-famous rapper and to work with her hero, music producer O-Z (Sahr Ngaujah).

In his first feature as a writer/director, Geremy Jasper has created a memorable outsider character with this strong-willed 23-year-old protagonist. An impressive central performance from Macdonald, who learnt how to rap and speak with a New Jersey accent for the role, marks her out as an exciting new talent.

Joining Patti in her quest to the top is her chain-smoking, wheelchair-user Nana (Cathy Moriarty), Jheri and anarchist and hardcore musician Antichrist (Mamoudou Athie), who we first meet at a local open mic night screeching out a song about the dangers of the pack mentality. Together they form an unlikely alliance and supergroup called PBNJ (Moriarty hollering out the letters in her husky tones is truly magical).

Patti’s delightful fantasies position her walking on air or enveloped in swathes of green light as she sits majestically on a throne. Allusions to The Wizard of Oz are clear; it’s in the blue-collar New Jersey setting that these colourful images take on poignant new meaning. As Patti pours out shots and shots of Jäger for Barb in the karaoke dive bar she works in, the green glass of the bottle hints at the reality of broken dreams numbed by booze. Barb’s glory days of hairspray rock may be over but she keeps on singing with soul and determination as Everett convincingly sells her heartache and despair with a dazzling rendition of Lita Ford’s ‘Kiss Me Deadly’.

This is a beautiful film about finding your people and your voice, one that moves along with a stirring, spirited energy. Jasper captures the romance and restlessness of youth, where confidence and vulnerability clash, with great warmth, good humour and a perceptive eye.

Published 30 Aug 2017

Tags: Bridget Everett Danielle Macdonald Geremy Jasper Siddharth Dhananjay

Anticipation.

Received standing ovations at Cannes and Sundance.

Enjoyment.

A beautiful story that plays out like a Bruce Springsteen song.

In Retrospect.

A rousing opera out on the turnpike.

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