Patti Cake$ is a rather unusual coming of age story. It wasn’t something I expected to take very seriously. I thought it would be interesting, based on what I knew of it, but hadn’t expected the life lesson that’s woven into the plot. As the movie played on, the more I realized how uncommon it was. It’s nice to run across a diamond in the rough. This very much is one.
The very authentic approach it took in telling Patricia Dombrowski, a.k.a. Patti Cake$, a.k.a. Killa P’s (Macdonald) tale was sometimes almost painful to watch. What could be lost through your being repulsed or shocked at times, is more than made up for in its charm and ability to win you over as you start to feel for this young woman who seems to have everything against her.
Patti is a dreamer. She’s the overweight, overwhelmed, overworked, underappreciated and underpaid daughter of Barb (Everett), granddaughter of Nana (Moriarty) and best friend to Hareesh (Dhananjay). She takes everything expected of her seriously and gives all tasks her full attention but she isn’t necessarily happy about anything she does because what she wants to do seems, thus far, so out of reach. But she’ll never give up. Caught between negativity that surrounds her and the posters in her room of the Rapper, O-Z (Sahr Ngaujah) she idolizes and dreams of working with someday, she feels stuck. She wants to make it on her own but is starting to realize she can’t do it on her own. This is very frustrating for her.
Her diet alone could kill her but she eats what she can afford to and that isn’t exactly gourmet dining. It speaks of what many face daily as America becomes more divided into only the rich and the poor with no middle ground to be found. This is a very strong message in this film. Patti and her family are the very descriptions of what has happened to this country. But going back to food and to dining, Patti enjoys going out to eat with her friend. It’s a way for her to get out of the house and away from her routine and having to take care of Nana all the time. She and Hareesh like to hash out their plans to conquer the world while they eat as the restaurant is their sanctuary where bullies and tormentors out to kill their dreams don’t reside.
But no wonder Patti doesn’t want to go home. It’s bad enough that thugs around town tease her every waking moment but her mother doesn’t treat her much better. Barb is jealous of her daughter’s youth and often finds ways of making Patti regret having been born. Barb was on the brink of making it as a singer in the music business when she got pregnant and has never let Patti forget that it was because of the pregnancy that her life virtually came to an end. She’s been in a bottle ever since and Patti has been a useful tool to abuse. Now old enough, she’s good for one thing and that’s to help pay the bills.
Patti is getting worn down by not being taken seriously but one night out with Hareesh, Patti is impressed by the performance and attitude of a very angry punk rock musician, (and Marilyn Manson/Snoop Dogg mix), who refers to himself as the Antichrist (Athie). She eventually burrows her way into his life and she, Hareesh and Bob, as his name turns out to be, end up making a rather fun Rap song together. With Bob’s equipment, Hareesh’s vocals and Patti’s producing/Rapping skills, they make a demo and start passing it around. By the way, ‘PBNJ’ is still stuck in my head and Nana’s part of the process cracked me up way beyond anything I ever expected! You just have to see this to see what I mean.
So, watching this all happen, her dreams slowly become reality and seeing exactly how hard it is to do so much when the odds are not in your favor from day one, is awe inspiring. She proves you can battle with the best and come out okay. The big takeaways are don’t give anyone your dreams and don’t ever give up. No. This isn’t the typical Hollywood ending so don’t think that you don’t have anything new to look forward to. This is a very innovative film.
Macdonald, who is from Australia and had never rapped before, is absolutely fantastic and will win you over instantly, and this is Geremy Jasper’s feature film directorial debut so there is a lot of unfamiliar territory covered here. I recommend you see the pay off from Jasper’s years of being a music video director. You’ll be quite surprised at just how thought provoking and innovative Patti Cake$ turns out to be.