Lost in a dream of rap superstardom, aspiring rapper Patricia Dombrowski, a.k.a. Killa P, a.k.a. Patti Cake$ is jolted out of her reverie by her own reality: a mother passed out with some stranger from the bar, a sick grandmother confined to a wheel chair; and mounting medical bills with threats of legal action looming on the horizon.
Leaving both her house and her problems behind her, she heads over to the pharmacy to collect her grandmother’s meds. En route, a local routinely mocks her weight from his car window: “Hey Dumbo!”. On top of everything else she has to contend with, Patti is an oversize girl. However, still being strong on the in side, Patti manages to deflect the hurt because she is nursing a bigger dream: to be a rap superstar.
In amongst all of her hardships, the one bright star in her life is her best friend Hareesh, a.k.a. Jheri (Siddharth Dhananjay) who works at the local pharmacy. A tight knit pair, they feed each others dreams of rap glory: with Patti as the witty, acerbic rapper to Hareesh’s brother-in-arms cum rap assassin sidekick.
‘Patti Cake$’ comes across as a pleasing mixture of ‘Precious’ and ‘8 Mile…
As they skirt and scrape through a poor life lived in New Jersey, ‘Patti Cake$’s’ central friendship of Patti and Hareesh makes for an entertaining and engaging pairing. Grounded by Patti’s battles against her appearance, sexism and poverty, ‘Patti Cake$’ comes across as a pleasing mixture of ‘Precious’ and ‘8 Mile’. Whilst never as gut-wrenchingly dramatic as either of these comparisons, ‘Patti Cake$’ still manages to touch on the same themes with a mixture of self-depreciating humour and charm.
As Patti, Danielle Macdonald ably grounds the dramatic scenes with a break-out performance that will hopefully see garner her further roles. Surrounded by similarly solid acting performances (in particular Bridget Everett as Barb – Patti’s bar fly of a broken mother), ‘Patti Cake$’ is a movie with a strong heart that avoids the stereotypically saccharine’d story of a star in the making. Whilst its plot and dramatic destination might not offer too much of a surprise, the tangled route the film takes in getting there, is still very entertaining.
By mixing observational comedy and gently-played out drama, ‘Patti Cake$’ is never as caustic as it could have been in its depiction of New Jersey’s low-rent rap world. However, in what feels like a conscious decision to entertain rather than educate, ‘Patti Cake$’ has a positive message and strong performances to go with its feel-good intentions.