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'Patti Cake$' Film Review: A contemporary retelling of the classic underdog story

August 25, 2017Britany Murphy

The story of the underdog is one many audiences know well. However, Patti Cake$ puts a different spin on things. After all, it’s not every day you see a movie about a white, female emcee from New Jersey who's trying to make a name for herself. What’s different about this film, coupled with strong and endearing performances from a trio of relative newcomers, is really what makes Patti Cake$ shine amid a sea of similar stories.

Written and directed by Geremy Jasper, Patti Cake$ is a coming-of-age tale that follows Patti Dombrowski, a.k.a. Killa P. (Danielle Macdonald), on her path to achieving stardom by becoming a rapper. Patti dreams of making it across the river from New Jersey to the mean streets of New York City, where many go in search of making their dreams a reality. Along the way, Patty experiences a roller coaster ride of ups and downs, most of which serve as a life lesson for the 23-year-old.

Needing to find someone to believe in her, with her mother, Barb (Bridget Everett), still trying to live the lifestyle of a rock star and a sick grandmother, lovingly referred to as Nana (Cathy Moriarty), to help support, Patti attempts to make the best of her unfair circumstances — even if it leaves her drained and often helpless. To escape the crushing reality that surrounds her, Patti immerses herself in her songwriting, and with the help of amazing friends Jheri (Siddharth Dhananjay) and Basterd the Antichrist (Mamoudou Athie), Patti is able to lead her best life and find success, regardless of the trials and tribulations associated with show business.

The characters in the movie have some of the best rapport out of many of the films to have been released this year, and what stands out the most is the way in which they all seem relatable, although, for all intents and purposes, they are mostly foils for one another. Everyone in the movie has a point to prove, from Patti and her posse, to the annoying antagonists, who refer to Patti as “Dumbo” at every opportunity.

The story essentially focuses on the relationship between each character and the constant struggles for identity that most of them find themselves a part of, which is something that also plays out in the music. In fact, the music seems like a character in its own right. Patti’s rhymes serve as the score, and in moments of sadness, happiness or any other emotion, it’s her lyrics and rhythms that capture the moment. It's different, beautifully done and certainly something that viewers are likely to notice.

Patti Cake$ is the kind of movie that unexpectedly gives you "the feels" in many forms, and you cannot help but become engrossed in its constant music and dreamy feel. Though far less gritty than other rap films, such as 8 Mile and Hustle & Flow, Patti Cake$ earns its seat at the table, thanks to powerful performances from Macdonald, Athie, Everett, Dhananjay and Moriarty, who are backed by witty dialogue and beats that stay in your head for days.

Patti Cake$ releases August 25th, 2017 from Fox Searchlight Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for language throughout, crude sexual references, some drug use and a brief nude image. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 48 Mins.

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