Patricia, aka Patti Cake$, aka Killa P, is a wannabe rapper who’s finding it hard to escape the shitty confines of New Jersey. She’s only 23 but is already feeling like a failure. She works 2 jobs just to keep drowning in debt from her Nan’s medical bills. Her mother, a washed-up, alcoholic, hasbeen singer, is rife with jealousy rather than support. And the local rap community sees her as a non-starter and a bit of a joke. She’s got one friend, a pharmacist named Jheri, who believes in her dreams even as he pursues his own. But it’s only when they meet the mysterious Basterd, master of sick beats, that the music starts to really come together.
Patti (Danielle Macdonald) is an interesting character; her complexity means it takes a little convincing, but hanging in there pays off. Macdonald fills the character up the way Beyonce fills out a bodysuit. She’s just spectacular in this: spectacular, spectacular. You can’t make a movie like this without the perfect lead, and Danielle Macdonald is this movie’s soul mate, its one and only. But the rest of the cast falls into place perfectly too. Siddharth Dhananjay as Jheri is Patti’s perfect partner; perhaps an unlikely duo, but if the rap game is going to turn a cold shoulder on a white girl from Jersey, so too will it be tough for a brown boy pharmacist. But disenfranchised is disenfranchised and director Geremy Jasper paints an unflinching portrait. Meanwhile, Mamoudou Athie had already won my heart in Unicorn Store, so seeing him again here as Basterd solidifies his probable and swift rise to fame. Bridget Everett, Amy Schumer’s right hand man of comedy, rounds out the cast of Patti’s desperate mother, and strikes the right, harsh notes.
This is a classic underdog story that works its way through some familiar turns of plot. And sometimes it’s trying too hard. And yet I found there was very little I could not forgive this film. That’s how much it spoke to me, how very enchanted I was by Patti and her world. And if you like slightly offbeat films with offbeat characters, this is a fun indulgence.