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Patti Cake$ (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 18, 2020

Patti Cake$

PATTI CAKE$ (2017)

Starring Danielle Macdonald, Siddharth Dhananjay, Mamoudou Athie, Bridget Everett, Cathy Moriarty, Patrick Brana, Sahr Ngaujah, McCaul Lombardi, Wass Stevens, Adam Scarimbolo, John Sharian, Alexandra Moruzzi, Dylan Blue, Warren Bub, Ray Iannicelli, Faith Logan and MC Lyte.

Screenplay by Geremy Jasper.

Directed by Geremy Jasper.

Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures. 108 minutes. Rated R.

You probably know someone like Patti Dombrowski, though chances are you don’t know her all that well. Part of that is because she has a bit of a permanent chip on her shoulder, is not particularly nice or outgoing on first glance, she’s not traditionally beautiful and she’s proudly offbeat. Part of it is due to the natural armor that she has built up after 23 years of a hard-knock life; being mistreated and misunderstood by people, friends and family.

However, once you get to know her, there is way more there than you would originally expect. Patti Cake$ is a character study of what some people may consider life’s losers, though they are looked at with clear-eyed compassion.

Patti (Danielle Macdonald) is a 23-year-old bartender, a bit overweight, with very few friends, living with her overbearing mother (Bridget Everett) and grandmother (Cathy Moriarty). She’s got a dead-end job that doesn’t pay enough. She acts harder and more confident than she really is in life, acting tough to hide a sometimes-soft heart. She has one good friend, an Indian drug-store clerk named Jheri (Siddharth Dhananjay).

Patti and Jheri have a dream; they want to be rappers. And, surprisingly, they aren’t half bad. Then they meet a local black speed-metal singer Basterd (Mamoudou Athie), whose melodies are rather catchy and have smart, introspective lyrics. They talk him into joining their group, strip back some of the shouty vocals and focus on his beats.

It’s like Precious without the abuse, or 8 Mile if Eminem were a plus-sized woman, or sort of like an arty, less overtly comic Revenge of the Nerds, because the supposed losers kind of win the day in the end.

Patti Cake$ is not the most original film ever made, but it has some intriguing characters, some impressive little-known actors (only Raging Bull co-star Moriarty and 90s rapper MC Lyte really have any kind of serious Hollywood background).

Special props have to be given to Australian actress Macdonald, who makes Patti rather lovable, even when she is doing some kinda unlovable things. Cabaret singer/comedian Bridget Everett (she also has appeared on Inside Amy Schumer) does a terrific job as Patti’s alcoholic mother, herself a former singer who long ago lost her dream. First-time actor Siddharth Dhananjay (who was discovered via YouTube performances as Dhananjay the First) is also terrific as Patti’s optimistic, platonic bestie.

Could Patti really become a rap star? Maybe, maybe not. But that’s really not the point. Musically, Patti Cake$ is just fine and purposely kind of raw, but we will never know how far she goes towards becoming a star (unless that comes up in an unlikely sequel).

More importantly, she is finally pursuing her dreams. And through pursuing her dreams, she becomes engaged in such pursuits as getting a better job, trying to find love, and forgiving her family for their foibles.

Patti Cake$ is a sweet look at some of life’s lovable oddballs, giving you a view into a world that Hollywood doesn’t often observe.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2017 All rights reserved. Posted: August 18, 2017.

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