Metadata: 2017 | R | 1h 50m
Genre: Drama, Music, Underdog (I made that genre up)
Why I watched: I remember seeing the trailer for this last year and thinking it looked fascinating. When it came to HBO the other week, I knew I had to check it out. I was immediately hooked.
You might also like: If you haven't seen David O. Russell's phenomenal Silver Linings Playbook, currently streaming on Netflix, you are in for a real treat. Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper play two mentally unstable, lonely people recovering from tragedy, and together they ballroom dance their way to healing and redemption. SLP is one of my favorite movies, and Patti Cake$ reminds me of it a little bit.
I promise you've never seen anything like this movie before. I also promise you will love it. The disparate elements of Geremy Jasper's Patti Cake$ sound like a little much, to be honest. A working class white woman aspiring to be a big-time rapper; a verbally abusive mom who's a washed up rock singer; an intensely awkward, anti-social anarchist DJ who calls himself Basterd; a grungy New Jersey suburb; and dream sequences about rap stardom that are by turns eerie and outlandish and sometimes resemble Nicki Minaj music videos. But throw all these pieces together, and what have you got? A movie that is pure gold.
Patti Cake$ mesmerized me from the first frame. At first I thought I couldn't look away because the images are sort of grotesque. Ultimately I realized it was because they are so damn beautiful. Not a single character or member of this cast is conventionally attractive, and their grimy and sometimes garish surroundings seem to emphasize that at first. But before long, this setting actually helps you to recognize the dignity and beauty of humanity when the trappings of wealth and privilege are non-existent. Extreme close-ups of Patti help with this, too. They force you to examine her—someone who, as a poor, fat, sometimes timid, frizzy haired girl, is not a likely candidate for attention or admiration, by society's standards—and yourself in the process.
Danielle Macdonald, the Australian actor who plays Patti Dombrowski, a.k.a. Killa P, a.k.a. Patti Cake$, is a vision. IMHO, she's pretty good at the whole rapping thing—and it turns out she had no idea how to rap before she agreed to play Patti. That's right, she taught herself how to do this. Am I the only one who finds this incredible? Report back after you watch, please. By the way, did I mention that in addition to the exhilarating rap sequences (sometimes set at a gas station, sometimes on a stage, sometimes in a shack in the woods), there's a love story in this movie? Yep. Did I mention there's a happy ending? Yep! This is one of those stories in which hard work and talent win out, and it's a whole lot of fun to watch it unfold along the way. The New York Times called Patti Cake$ "an unambiguous joy," and I couldn't agree more.
Very happy streaming, friends! Grace