Film Review: Patti Cake$ (2017)

2017 in Cinema:

Patti Cake$, 2017

Directed by: Geremy Jasper

Starring: Danielle Macdonald, McCaul Lombardi

 

Patti Cake$ is a drama-musical about a plus-sized white girl, Patricia Dombrowski (Danielle Macdonald), who aspires to be a famous rapper (and escape New Jersey, as one of her songs tells us). Her mother, who is now nothing more than an unemployed alcoholic, was a singer in her youth but she disagrees with the rap genre of music and laughs at Patricia’s desires. Patricia also has to deal with bullying (mostly about her weight), her sick nana (whose care is costing so much that Patricia needs a second job to earn money), her nerves (she has anxiety about performing a couple of times), a romance (which comes about with a member of their rap group) and managing to break out in a tough area to break out in.

Danielle Macdonald is brilliant in this performance, expertly showing a range of emotions with everything that Patricia has to deal with (from rejection to harassment to joy). This nicely counters Jheri’s (Siddharth Dhananjay) emotions, as he pretty much is happy the whole time, and Basterd’s (Mamoudou Athie) who is silent and miserable-looking pretty much the whole time.

The biggest focus on a review of a musical has to be its music: and this film knocks it out of the park. The beats and the lyrics perfectly match the characters’ emotions and desires (and having nana’s (Cathy Moriarty) announcing of the band remixed into their intro is a nice touch). And the end song which Patricia sings in a club has a really nice moment to it (which I won’t spoil), but it all comes full circle.

It’s not all perfect, though, as a few things do let this film down slightly: Patricia’s anxiety about performing, as noted before, disappears almost immediately. Some scenes she’s really nervous and others she’s perfectly fine rapping, but at the end it’s perhaps the worst. She’s getting ready for their big performance and announces she’s nervous; she doesn’t get any words of wisdom or advice but then performs amazingly on stage. It just seemed like a huge jump from a bag of nerves to a star rapper. This huge jump is also reflected in the reunion between Patricia and Jheri; after they have a falling out she apologises and before you know it they’re back together better than ever and everything is forgotten about; it just felt like a little more time was needed to properly reunite their friendship. And while it’s a fun film, the plot is nothing that hasn’t been seen before: she desires a career, they work towards it and have their big shot. Nice moments are added into it, such as nana’s ill health and a rapper she admires rejecting her talents.

One of the best parts of this film, for me, though, was the music-video-like dreams she has about O-Z (Sahr Ngaujah), a famous rapper who she admires. The florescent colours, the raps behind it, the smoke, everything looks amazing in these scenes as she dreams of what she wants. And the camera work in this film is quite brilliant, too: showing angles which are almost unflattering to Patricia’s body make her seem huge, in both size and importance. While everyone else critiques her body, she doesn’t seem to mind and accepts it, and this camera work focusing on it like it would any other skinny girl comes across as wonderful and powerful.

A fun film, certainly, with a nice soundtrack behind it, accompanied by brilliant performances (notably from Macdonald) and brilliant scenes with some vibrant colours. Patricia has so much more to deal with than just being a rapper and all of these help flesh out a character we can truly root for. Its only downside was its rushed-ness with regards to a few things, but overall they don’t affect it too much.

 

Plot: * * *

Acting: * * * *

Writing: * * * *

Presentation: * * * * *

Overall Rating: * * * *

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