Written and directed by Geremy Jasper, this feel-good movie has the familiar theme of pursuing your dream (no matter how seemingly-impossible), courageously facing multiple and formidable obstacles, and – with the help of a few key people – triumphing in the end. What separates this film from others with this over-used, formulaic plot, however, are the catchy rap tunes (with interesting although X-rated lyrics, written by Jasper) and the fascinating relationship between Patti and her mother. It’s essentially a rap “Rocky”!
Patti “Dumbo” Dombrowski (aka “Patti Cake$,” aka “Killer P” – Danielle Macdonald) wants to hit the big-time as a rapper. She lives in a poor part of New Jersey and primarily works as a bartender. Patti and her mother, Barb (Bridget Everett), are barely making ends meet. Patti dreams of getting a record contract with the rap king-maker, a Jay-Z-like figure, O-Z (Sahr Ngaujah). Unfortunately, Patti has three major problems. She’s female and white, while just about every rapper is male and black. Furthermore, she is obese and isn’t going to reach stardom via sex-appeal.
Barb once had a great voice and was in a promising band. She almost hit the big-time, but, for reasons revealed mid-way through the film, her dreams were shattered. Due to what happened, Barb has a very ambivalent relationship with Patti. She loves Patti, but has very strong negative feeling towards her. She often says very cruel things to Patti and discourages her from trying to be a rap star. Patti gets emotional and musical support from her friend Jhen (Siddharth Dhananjay), a black anarchist (who refuses to disclose his name until near the end of the picture – Mamoudou Athie), and her maternal grandmother (Cathy Moriarty), and they form a rap group. However, getting exposure isn’t easy.
Bridget Everett’s performance is brilliant and AAW. Macdonald is an Australian actor, and she is terrific too. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her get nominated as well.
In honor of this film, here is the first line of my latest rap smash! (The rest will forever remain a mystery, since I like to leave the audience begging for more! You will need to use your imagination for the beat and melody.)
Go see “Patti Cake$” and listen to some rap — you’ll find it much more fun than taking a nap!