'Patti Cake$' delightfully romps through Patti's hip-hop dreams and struggles
By Diane Carson
Danielle Macdonald is Patricia Dombrowski a.k.a. Killa P or Patti Cake$ in the film of that title. Daniele as Patti is a marvel for her powerful presence: she grabs Patti's story and infuses it with heart and soul, and that's just the beginning. The entire movie bursts with energy in its festive celebration of music and song.
Twenty-three-year old Patti lives with her mother and grandmother in New Jersey, longing to make the move to Manhattan, with all the success as a hip-hop artist that suggests. Her best friend, pharmacist Hareesh, called Jheri, encourages, strategizes, and works to make that happen. Patti's fears, her mother's abusive discouragement (revealed as a projection of her own disillusionment), and the lack of opportunity threaten the likelihood of that happening. Slowly becoming involved is a taciturn musician called Basterd who lives by a cemetery accessed through a tunnel called the Gates of Hell. Boldly, fascinated by him, Patti gets him interested and, along with her grandmother (a hilarious addition), the group PBNJ is formed but will they ever triumph with Patti herself botching their chances? This isn't your typical rise-to-stardom story, and all the better for its delicious uniqueness.
Patti Cake$--the woman and the film -- have no hesitancy jumping into and out of fantasy, namely the refreshing immersion in Patti's escapist desires and most cherished dream of life as a rapper. In fact, the film opens right in exactly such a performance, in close-ups suffused with green light (as most of the illusory moments are) and Patti throwing down her rhymes. I found it impossible not to love her immediately.
Adding to its appeal is the rare treat of watching full-bodied women, beautiful and comfortable with their physiques even though Patti must endure and reject the hurt of those who call her Dumbo. She manages quite nicely, thank you, to challenge the insecurities of others who indulge their baser instincts.
Geremy Jasper directs and also wrote the music putting his amazing, double barreled talent on display. He knows how to shoot this film as well, with d.p. Federico Cesca relying on close-ups to reveal emotion. And the actors do, with Bridget Everett who can also belt out a tune, and fine support from Cathy Moriarty and Siddharth Dhananjay. Patti Cake$ is the feel good movie of the summer, with a beat that won't quit and who would want it too? At several cinemas; check local listings.