STAGGERINGLY ANTI-GLAMOUR, Patti Cake$ follows every step in the feel-good movie playbook
but manages to subvert itself, if not the story, to create a film that seethes with humanity.
This is a visceral, quivering, gorgeous mess. Extreme close-ups of oil filled, gaping pores. Swathes of dimpled, stretch marked skin, parched hair that sticks out of the screen at you. Filthy fake fingernails tap greasy shot glasses And you can taste the smell of the people and places you see.
Our heroine – Patricia “Dumbo” Dombrowski, resides in Bergen County, New Jersey. She makes pop tarts in a grimy, trash-filled kitchen before changing the adult diaper of her bed-bound grandmother.
In Patricia’s bedroom you see every stain on her sheets and crusty remnants fill the corners. Patricia is big girl. A big, white girl who occupies an ordinary life but of course harbours grand ambitions. Patricia wants to be a rapper. Her alter ego is Killa P and she is a gifted writer and performer – but she’s also white, and ginormous. There’s honestly no need to bother you with the plot – it’s textbook girl-overcomes- adversity and realises her dreams, finds love and reconciles with her family thanks to her rag-tag band of friends and self-belief.
But the story isn’t the point here. This is a film that will exhaust you in the best possible way. Every second you are smiling or cringing or both and it’s glorious. This is 8 Mile meets High School Musical meets Bad Boy Buddy.
This New Jersey is fully realised and fully authentic. Everywhere is a dump, no one has perfect teeth and zero fucks are given. Danielle Macdonald, as Patricia/Killa P is astounding. She piles life into the character just as she piles her considerable flesh into that too-tight white shirt she wears for her
second catering job.
Joining Patti in her quest to become a rap sensation are her Asian friend Jheri and black band mate (and slightly shoe-horned in and totally unnecessary love interest) Basterd. He’s a punk – not a rapper – so kudos to writer and director Geremy Jasper for trying to do something by subverting
expected racial roles, but again, it’s really not that important.
What is important is how much fun you’ll have watching this. Musically it’s delightful, the cast are stand-out and the pace and visuals are spot on. Come for the rap battles and squirm-inducing physicality, ignore the agonisingly predictable story line and enjoy the bumpy ride. If you’re going to
pick one underdog story and ‘sundance charmer’ to love this year – make it Patti Cake$ – still my number one, son.
By Bethan Hopkins