Patti Cake$ Review – Raw, Unapologetic, An Early Oscar Favorite

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Patti Cake$, from Fox Searchlight Pictures, presents the story of stardom, the unlikely one in a million shot, where the obstacles are genuinely insurmountable, the hope is dwindling, the cash spent, and the bill collectors at the door.

Directed and written by Geremy Jasper, Patti Cake$ stars Danielle MacDonald, Bridget Everett, Cathy Moriarty, Siddharth Dhananjay, Mamoudou Athie, MC Lyte and Sahr Ngaujah.

Patti Cake$ opens with neon green triangles lighting a path to a stage where Master Rapper O-Z, played by Sahr Ngaujah is addressing the chanting and frenzied crowd. Our girl Patti kneels before the king and kisses his ring. Her loyalty is to rap and the rap lifestyle. It is sealed. She stands begins to sing, and steps onto the fans who carry her a few feet into the crowd with no support, a hard fall if they leave.


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Suddenly the alarm rings and our girls wakes from another dream of her future. Answering the phone that pulled her from the future to reality, a recording informing Patti Dombrowski this is the last notice if payment isn’t made soon etc, etc., etc.

We see early our girl Patti may be able to spit the lyrics with the best of them, and hit hard in the spit wars, the package that is the first sell is a tough sell. Attitude however is no problem. Patti Cake$ a.k.a. Killa P, is  ready for stardom.

On this morning, her Nana, played by Cathy Morirty, who fell and broke her hip, is her first priority and her Ma, played by Bridget Everett, is looking for love in all the wrong places and seemed to have found it last night.

Patti is headed over to see her promoter and number one fan, Jerry, played by  Siddharth Dhananjay, and the two of them, “we will legendary” as she raps.

Patti is working in the local pub pouring shots for the local in some suburb in Jersey, where the Manhattan skyline is the goal, and the Hudson River just another obstacle in Patti and Jerry’s quest to make it.

As Patti is robust she is often mocked by the locals who never left high school and are still riding on their kid sister’s Schwinn. The evenings are filled with finding the way to leave Dirty Jersey in the rearview.


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Patti Cake$ delivers the true grit of the rap world as our duo attempts to cut a demo, find a producer, and make all the right steps to get the music out so it can be heard. Which is where they meet “Bastard” played by Mamoudou Athie, a shocking African, who has gone out of his way to present himself with heightened level of shock that stops any social engagement.

Our Patti, and it must in the genes, as Nana and Barb, all just look past the stop sign he’s erected and asked him what’s up. When the pieces fall into place, sometimes, it’s like all the haters, hurters, liars and losers vanish and it’s just right.

Patti Cake$ is surprisingly good. I wanted to say it isn’t for the faint at heart and then I realized neither is the pursuit. Life isn’t always neat, pre-packaged, prepared with crisp corners. Patti Cake$ delivers.

Bridget Everett gave a career changing performance. A stand-up comic she’s worked in New York with bits and pieces. Enough to know if she had that one role, she could nail it and she really did.

As a former 80’s rocker, Barb is burdened with life, hardship, the almost made it career, giving up (as she got pregnant)  right before she hit big. Close enough to taste the prize. Now whatever she feels, she plays washed up and in her daughter’s eyes, she is. A drunk, looking for love, hopefully longer than a night but that’s all right too. This is a star making role for her. 

Cathy Moriety we all know. Her first big role was opposite Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull and she has worked since. Her tough New Jersey talking, chain smoking grandma role in Patti Cake$ is a departure for her. She nails the character and makes the world believe her granddaughter, Patti is a superstar.

Danielle MacDonald stunned me. Surprised and then surprised again as I found she was from Australia. That Dirty Jersey girl is from Down Under! She has real talent and knocks it out of the park. Truly a surprise! I won't be surprised if she is around come Awards Season.

For the urban crowd, Patti Cake$ really grabs those who believe in themselves and face the challenges, hurdles and obstacles every day. The genre may be different and for rappers the gangster aspect make the challenge more dangerous. And every artistic expression, dancer, singer, actor, rap star, has similar hurdles. The personal, the package, the confidence, self-esteem, attitude, hard work, the skill and then fate, kismet, chance, destiny or what name the breakthrough is attributed too.

The entire cast really captures the suburban desperation. The loners, wallflowers, hopefuls, the dreamers, Patti Cake$ brings every emotion, every hurdle, obstacle and rolls up in this one girl, who is also carrying the defeat of her Mother’s almost made it career.

Patti Cake$ is explicit. It is built on the premise of a would be rapper, and she isn’t rapping about rainbows and lollipops, her lyrics are hard hitting, uninhibited and graphically raw. The lyrics are written by the director Geremy Jasper.

I expect Patti Cake$ to be around during Awards Season. 

Patti Cake$ opens everywhere August 18, 2017. 

 

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