Straight Outta Bergen County
Publication: TheMovieWaffler, 1st September 2017
The braggadocio of the rap world in which Patti Cake$ main character Patricia (Danielle Macdonald) aspires could not be further from her daily routine. Climbing the social ladder in the real world means waitressing at a fancy establishment and watching the wealthy live their lives. In her head she is amongst OZ (Sahr Ngaujah) the most fantastical of hip-hop superstars.
This indie gem serves to illuminate the lobsters dragging everyone down amongst a medley of insularity and fading dreams, the bullying and the teenage pregnancies and the drunkenness all part of a conspiracy against escape. Perhaps the most complex relationship in the film is between Patricia and her mother Barb (Bridget Everett), who resents where her own life ended up after a promising early singing career.
This isn’t all a film of grit and family strife. In spite of the confines of her environment, as well as a sharp diversion from her peers in the rap world, the girl has talent. The question isn’t can a fat white girl rap, it’s whether anyone will ever care. But to call this film a paean to women making it in a man’s world, or big girls kicking it on screen, seems trite for a film that achieves this and much more.
Everything from the quiet tragedy of dive bar karaoke to a rap legend’s pretension is displayed with authenticity and dedication. The film starts to follow a familiar pattern in its final act, but by there is enough investment in Patti and her Jersey surrounds to still will her to succeed.
Much of the film’s ire is reserved for those who have left inventiveness for lazy misogyny in their work and in their lives. Patti’s battle with one such loser is an early moment the audience can see her raw talent. She is also clearly more talented and authentic than best friend Jheri (Siddharth Dhananjay) and this potential cause of friction could have been explored further in the film.
Danielle Macdonald is excellent as Patti, displaying a fierce yet deeply wounded character. Women of her body type have too long been typecast as comic relief, and I hope MacDonald’s dramatic here will be built on in upcoming roles alongside Jennifer Aniston in Dumplin’ and Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird.
Patti Cake$ isn’t just a calling card for Macdonald, but also director Geremy Jasper. Here he has shown the ability to delve into the banality of working class America and create a film of real vibrancy and hope. It’s a far cry from Selena Gomez music videos and short films with David Beckham.
After generating serious buzz at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, Patti Cake$ landed a $9.5 million distribution deal with Fox Searchlight Pictures. A September release date also shows that millions more may yet be sunk into an Oscar campaign. An Original Screenplay nomination for Patti Cake$ would be well earned, and anything less than a Best Actress nomination for Macdonald would be a travesty.
Patti Cake$ opens in UK theatres Friday September 1st