Killa P, Killa Film: 'Patti Cake$' Film Review
by Will Lindus
It isn’t unfair to draw a direct parallel between ‘Patti Cake$’ and ‘8 Mile,’ the 2002 drama starring Eminem as an up-and-coming rapper living in Detroit. After all, the two follow a similar trajectory, with ‘Patti Cake$’ telling the story of an aspiring rapper named Patricia Dombrowski (Danielle Macdonald), a.k.a. Killa P, a.k.a. Patti Cake$, as she struggles with poverty, family issues, and her own status as an outsider as she pursues her passion and her dream of one day escaping New Jersey.
However, the comparison falls away quickly as you peel back the layers. ‘8 Mile’ was conceived as a vehicle to help showcase Eminem, already a successful musician, as both a commodity to be taken seriously and as a performer with more street cred than his more whimsical tracks might otherwise suggest. If you think that ‘Patti Cake$’ was created to showcase the rapping skills of Danielle Macdonald, you’d be dead wrong. Prior to accepting her role as Patricia, Australian-born Macdonald had never done any rapping, and had to train vigorously to pull off the impressive musical numbers showcased in the film. That her performances are so seemingly effortless is a testament to the hours upon hours of practice that Macdonald poured into this role after being cast by director Geremy Jasper.
Macdonald is the lifeblood of ‘Patti Cake$,’ and it is because of her talents that this film works so well. Musical prowess aside, she brings to the film a scrappy sense of self-confidence, an undying resilience in the face of adversity. She is an underdog, a human bop bag that can take a blow to her ego and still pop right back up to her feet.
She is joined by a stellar supporting cast of characters, each of which compliments Patricia’s growth arc perfectly. Bridget Everett plays Barb, Patti’s mother, a former 80’s rock singer who was on the verge of greatness before becoming pregnant and giving up her dreams. Barb is a drunk who both resents and loves Patti, and cautions her against pursuing music because of the heartache that she endured. Everett, herself a singer and cabaret performer in real life, keeps the film grounded in consequence. Hers is the life Patti will live if she is not successful in escaping New Jersey, a thought which terrifies Patti. Joining Killa P in her musical endeavors are her best friend and hype-man Jheri (Siddharth Dhananjay), an unnerving yet extraordinarily talented musician dubbed Bastard the Antichrist (Mamoudou Athie), and most surprisingly, Patti’s ailing Nana (Cathy Moriarty).
Perhaps most compelling about ‘Patti Cake$’ is the path of its narrative. These types of underdog stories often revolve around a talented upstart trying to escape their surrounds. Very rarely do these stories pivot to become less about escape and more about coming to grips with the fact that one’s environment is not something to be ashamed of, but rather to be celebrated. As Patricia seeks to escape Jersey, she comes to learn what it is about her hometown that makes it so special to her.
Bottom Line: Featuring a cast of great characters and a dynamic performance by Danielle Macdonald, ‘Patti Cake$’ is the perfect cure for the hometown blues. It carries with it a scrappy spirit, a heartfelt message, and one hell of a soundtrack. I dare anyone to watch this movie and not emerge from the theater with a huge grin on their face.
4 out of 5 Bear Paws