Patti Cake$ Movie Review
What would 8 Mile look like if Eminem was an overweight Jersey girl, he fell in love with a mute anarchist, and the director went on random LSD binges while making the movie? Patti Cake$, the drama from first-time feature length director Geremy Jasper, could be the answer.
Danielle Macdonald delivers a fantastic performance as the title character, an aspiring rapper named Patricia Dombrowski, a.k.a. Killa P, a.k.a. Patti Cake$, who is attempting to break free of her crappy New Jersey neighborhood and alcoholic mother (Bridget Everett). The Australian actress smacks around every scene with a deadly Jersey accent and sassiness to boot, but also stabs you under the armpit Gladiator-style with emotionally charged accuracy.
The movie itself talks a tough talk, but doesn’t quite match the mastery of Macdonald’s performance. Jasper’s film is a relatively straightforward drama intermixed with hallucinatory dream sequences that add a comical, offbeat charm to the production—even though it could be argued they’re style over substance. That would be a criticism if not for the fact it’s clear that Jasper knows exactly what he’s doing; Patti Cake$ is full of colorful characters and intriguing dynamics. Mamoudou Athie plays one of the oddest characters you’ll see all year, a guy who starts out looking like he was torn from an indie horror flick and ends up as something else entirely (criticism: his character arc is the least developed, and hardest to understand). Siddharth Dhananjay is terrific and injects pure, optimistic energy into a film that at times is all about beating you back down to reality. Cathy Moriarty is a treat, while Everett, perhaps best known as Amy Schumer’s ridiculous “sidekick,” takes full advantage of an Oscar-caliber role by unleashing an Oscar-caliber performance.
Patti Cake$ lives and breathes music, and Jasper rarely lets the film choke. Rap music ain’t my thing, but the music is excellent and pulses throughout every pore of the production.
Despite all its strengths, Patti Cake$ isn’t the mind-blowing film it wants to be – no matter how hard it tries, it can’t shake the formula—a person from the wrong side of the tracks has the chance to do something with her life by performing in a music tournament. The climax is a lot of fun, but Jasper wraps things up too neatly, too predictably.
Patti Cake$ is a well-made movie that features several award-caliber performances, most notably from star Danielle Macdonald. It’s not a movie everyone will love, and I admit I don’t have much desire to watch it again, but it’s a very strong feature-length debut by Geremy Jasper.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.