Patti Cake$ is a drama film directed by Geremy Jasper and stars Danielle Macdonald as the titular role.
The Story/The Direction:
This film is about Patricia Dombroski (Macdonald) aka Dumbo aka Patti Cake$ aka Killer P. She's a 23-year-old with dreams of being a rapper. As she works hard to be the greatest rapper of all time, she works at a dive bar and lives at home with her sick grandmother (Cathy Moriarty) and difficult mother (Bridget Everett). Her best friend is Hareesh (Siddharth Dhananjay) and on their way to stardom, they meet Basterd the Antichrist (Mamoudou Athie). Together they form a group to make it big and get out of New Jersey.
Writer/director Geremy Jasper, who worked on the music videos for Selena Gomez's "Love You Like a Love Song" and Florence + the Machine's "Dog Days Are Over, Version 2." Here, he made a story that is apparently based on his childhood experiences New Jersey. As being a music video director, he is able to get some good shots during the musical numbers especially when Patti is rapping.There is some realistic feel to this story he has made and also Patti's character is written well.
MacDonald is the saving grace of this film. She has a phenomenal presence on screen and as an Australia pulls off a decent New Jerseyian/American accent. She a woman in a mostly male-dominated world and to see her succeed is definitely well deserved. It was great seeing a woman, even more, so a plus sized woman, push forward to get what she wants. Her character is a plus-size movie character that is not a punchline. She definitely gives an inspiring body-positive hero does not care what others say about her. This character's mind is focused on going against the idea that she is destined to live in a small-town with a minimum-wage income. The hip-hop world is mostly dominated by men and the women are often objectified. She is able to turn these concepts upside down to push forward strongly.
The direction by Jasper is very questionable at times. You see his clear music video influence but while that may work for a 3-4 minute song, here it feels awkward. It made me not take the movie as serious as it should have been. I also was not a big fan of some of the dialogue. During a funeral scene, a character describes a eulogy as "beautiful," but we don't hear it, we are just told that it was. This is not the only time this happens which leads to not being emotionally involved with the characters. The main issue with this film is that it does nothing new and even if it's trying to give you another viewpoint, it really does not seem to be serious. The plot is really predictable and you can check off every single inspirational movie cliche as it progresses. There is a local bully, a disapproving parent, a famous person who disregards the protagonist, a talent competition, etc...While a good take on showing a plus size woman's struggle, Patti never shows the viewers that she spent her entire life writing and working for a career in rap. It seems to be a skill that was discovered a few years prior to the events of the film.
Her rhymes do dictate her struggles and it is believable that it sucks to not be able to pay her grandmother's (Moriarty) medical bills. However, it really feels that her aspirations are more of a developed hobby than anything. Her best friend, Jheri is a pharmacist for crying out loud which means he went to school and honestly is not really struggling at all. It may not be his dream job but it's still something that does not seem that bad. In Purple Rain, the Kid's father is verbally and physically abusive and his mother is emotionally abusive. Jimmy in 8 Mile was working at a factory and living with his mom in a trailer park. DJay in Hustle and Flow was a pimp/drug dealer who wanted to stop and do something more memorable. It's a very complex and in-depth pool of a character. Here, the motivations are essentially only people saying she can't do it. Her mother (Everett) had a dream of stardom but failed so she thinks that everyone who tries will do the same. They need money to pay medical bills. There are obvious pressures there and also with the fact that she's white trying to make it predominantly black music business. But the latter pressure is not executed well as it is not shown on screen. The only rap battle she has is a white dude but this only shows a woman is better than a man. Even with the final scene, this attempt to break a stereotype is not done, not that she had much of a chance with an open mic instead of another battle.
Aside from her charisma, Patti came off initially as a bit of a terrible person. There's a scene in a cemetery where she sees a character kneeling down at a grave and she wonders what he's doing. Any normal person who saw this would think this guy is praying but for some reason, it's odd that he's kneeling at a grave. This leads to her being introduced to Basterd the Antichrist. He then runs away and she follows him to "The Gates of Hell," which is a bit on the nose. She then barges in without knocking and says her spiel that she thinks he's really talented. She invites her friend over who completely disrespects Basterd's home. He asks them to leave to which they don't. They kind of force him to be apart of the musical endeavor and a part of the plot. He's mute for almost the entire film and his music expertise is heavy metal rock. While he does take a new route here showing a black musician not being into hip-hop and rap, he is only there to move the story forward. Similar to other magical minorities before him, he legitimately only tells Patti what she needs to hear so that the plot progresses then for some reason forms a romantic relationship with her. It could be said that the mentioned films weren't original either but what they had was music that was good. While the lyrics may have been decent, the execution was cheesy and corny. Every time they performed, I was shaking my head in agony and my ears were asking my brain, "Why would you do this to us?" The music didn't have to be Academy Award-winning like all of the previously mentioned but somewhat close would have been nice.
Patti Cake$ is not a bad film, it's an awful one. The narrative is one you have seen before, the music is bad, and the climax is lazy. Kicking down a door with a strong woman character is great but when the door is surrounded by corniness, it makes it dull. The only thing that drives the film is Macdonald's performance as you can see that she believes in every word coming out of her mouth. At the end of the day, she's very passionate about the message of the film and could be a good model for young people following their dreams no matter the obstacles in front do them. But there are much better films than this that execute the ideas more successfully. The overall film is corny and similar to a high school cover band. Would definitely skip this film at all costs.
Rating: 1.0/5.0 bowties
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