“Patti Cake$” is centered on aspiring rapper Patricia Dombrowski, a.k.a. Killa P, a.k.a. Patti Cake$, who is fighting an unlikely quest for glory in her downtrodden hometown in New Jersey.
Every girl dreams big dreams and sometimes even impossible dreams. Patricia Dombroski (Danielle Macdonald) is at the bottom of the barrel with really big dreams of becoming a rap queen. Dumbroski, a.k.a Dumbo as she is not so affectionately referred to by her peers is a large woman with large obstacles, but even larger determination. She lives in a gritty, impoverished corner of New Jersey with her sick grandmother and her mom, who is a washed-up singer and a washed-out alcoholic.
In many ways, the film is your typical hard-luck story with a wild stroke of success ending. Patti is a heavy-set girl, not all that pretty, but definitely not really trying either. She works several crummy jobs, handing over most of her money to her mom, Barb (Bridget Everett}, who spends it on booze. Her grandmother loves her to pieces but is in failing health. Meanwhile, Patti tries to not get fired while she scribbles down obscene lyrics that would normally make a grandmother cringe. Not Nana though. Nana (Cathy Moriarty) keeps smoking her cigarettes and cruising along in her wheelchair as Patti’s biggest fan. On the sidelines, Patti only has one very close friend, Jheri (Siddharth Dhananjay), who also believes that she has the words to win over the rapping world.
As if Patti’s circumstances weren’t bad enough to set the stage of the underdog, director Geremy Jasper loads every scene with details of poverty, processed food, poor life choices until you feel gorged to the point of wanting to push away and not look any more. Not only that, but the language, the relationships, the word pictures, the histories – everything is the worst of the worst of the worst. But that’s the style of this story and you have to just accept that if you want to enjoy the rest of the film.
There are a few oddities in the directing choices that make the film a little unusual, if not downright strange. In the very beginning, Patti takes a walk while listening to her beats on her headphones. She gets lost in the music and her fantasies of her rap idol and all of a sudden, she is levitating into green-tinted clouds…. Yeah….there’s not much else to say that can really explain that filming choice. The other slightly bewildering, but somehow endearing choice is the introduction of a relationship between Patti and another struggling-to-be-heard musician, Basterd (Mamoudou Athie)…who also happens to be a Satan-worshipping hermit living off the grid in the middle of the New Jersey wooded suburbs. It turns out that Basterd is a very normal “Bob” and he and Patti discover love with each other. Strange, maybe a little overtly fantastical, but Bob, Jheri, Nana, and Patti make the sweetest, foulest, heart-warming, ass-kicking gang ever.
“Patti Cake$” will not be your cup of tea if you’re a tea-drinking sort of person. But if your teacup is filled with cheap whiskey and a dash of cigarette ash, you will love Patricia Dumbroski, a.k.a. Killa P, and the rest of her crew.
Now available on Blu-ray & DVD