Making his cinematic debut, Geremy Jasper’s Patti Cake$ tells the story of Patricia Dombrowski (Danielle Macdonald). She’s a plus-sized white girl living in downtrodden New Jersey with a love for rap. Hoping to make a career out of her talents, Patti is cheered on by her grandmother and friends/bandmates Jerri and Basterd while struggling to juggle her dreams with shouldering her mother’s misfortunes.
While clearly an underdog story, Patti Cake$ does have plenty going for it. While many of the story beats it hits are predictable, the point the film makes is that passion and soul is what makes an artist and the film certainly isn’t lacking in that department. The film’s main performance and sense of setting serve to emphasise this point. The atmosphere established and the dialogue spoken between characters creates a vibe in which you feel as though you are sharing Patti’s environment with her, allowing us to understand her situation as well as empathise and eventually root for her. Danielle Macdonald’s commanding and compelling lead performance adds to the empathy. She carries her character’s pathos wonderfully but it’s her charisma, sense of humour and overall determination that makes this performance such a stand out one.
An intoxicatingly mesmeric soundtrack with original songs written by Jasper builds upon what the film has already created. It’s easy to tap your foot along to the beats and bars the songs have to offer. Patti Cake$ feels reminiscent of 8 Mile (to the point of including its own rap battle) but the soundtrack is riveting and uniquely Jasper’s own. It’s stylish, addicting and a ton of fun to listen to.
The film does unfortunately slip further into clichéd territory, especially in its third act. The story isn’t the strongest to begin with, on top of which we must endure the usual tropes that come with underdog stories including a certain force telling her she can’t do it, leading to her not believing in herself anymore until some other force convinces her otherwise so she can come back stronger. It drags down the quality and allows conventionality to annoyingly prosper.
That said, it’s ultimately the undeniable heart behind Patti Cake$ that makes it so watchable. It may dwell too often in predictability but the film more than makes up for it with its killer beats, likeable cast of characters and enthralling work from Macdonald and Jasper. Here’s hoping we see more of them both in the future.
This film will be screened at the Glasgow Film Theatre from the 1st to the 14th of September, tickets are available here: http://glasgowfilm.org/shows/patti-cakedollar-15
The GFT also offers a free 15-25 discount card for students, available here: http://glasgowfilm.org/plan-your-visit/memberships/15-25-card