Friday, August 25, 2017

Fox Searchlight Film Review - Patti Cakes

Patricia Dombrowski (Danielle Macdonald) outside persona is diametrically opposed to her inside one. In her head she's the protege of The Godfather of rap O-Z (Sahr Ngaujah).  In her small New Jersey suburban community she's Dumbo Dumbrowski so nicknamed since junior high daughter of Barb (Bridget Everett) a chronic drunk who lives out her early 20's fantasies as a power rock ballad singer at a dive bar full of bar flies where Patti tends bar. Rounding out her world is her best friend/hype manager Hareesh aka. Jheri (Siddharth Dhananjay) an East Asian Pharmacy assistant who's the greatest believer in her rapping talents introducing her as; Patricia Dombrowski aka Patti Cake$' aka Killa P. Plus the mysterious experimental punk rocker Bob aka Basterd (Mamoudou Athie) an Anarchist who lives in a shack behind the towns graveyard.

Director Geremy Jasper brings the viewer uncomfortably into Patti's personal space in the first frames of the film. The camera is very tight as she wakes up in her dump of a room, hits the washroom, then sits on the toilet as she works through rhymes. It's not any prettier in her mother's room or out in the living room where her Nana (Cathy Moriarty) is perched in her wheelchair watching her favourite courtroom show. Nana however always has time for her granddaughter giving a warm greeting to her superstar before the latter heads out the door.

Patti and Jheri try all avenues to get her on a stage to show her skills. She battles in parking lots, at gas stations, spitting rhymes as she rolls in her red Cadillac sporting pattiwgn tags. On the street her main battles are with small time pizza maker /drug dealer Danny (Patrick Brana) who she's also crushing on hard. They eventually raid Basterd's shack an occult trinketed recording studio where they mix a track featuring a key drop from Nana birthing the group PBMJ and signaling an uptick in our heroine's fortunes. At the same time she lands lucrative part time work for a prestigious caterer company that brings in much needed funds to assist with the Dombrowksi's debts.

Australian Daniella Macdonald is convincing as the suburban plus sized rap princess from her first utterance of Ma with a sharp Joisey accent. Her timing is spot on using strategic pauses as she plots responses in rap battles or before she launches into a set on stage. Siddharth Dhananjay is perfect as sidekick Hareesh. He owns his ridiculousness sending only positive vibes to his best friend. Mamoudou Athie's Basterd is a soft spoken soul underneath the angry hard man scary outward projection. Needy Mother Barb Bridget Everett an established New York cabaret performer sees her daughter as a sister encouraging her to use her god given weapons to get what she wants spending her time  running up a tab drinking shots of Jaeger ending up too often in a bathroom at the dive bar with her daughter holding her hair.

Patti Cake$' is an indie film that champions a down and out marginalized member of society. A topic that indie films excel at when they get the character right. First time helmer Geremy Jasper does so here supported by the fine acting work of Daniella Macdonald bringing Patti to life. The production is gritty, the sets small but functional allowing the dialogue and story to breathe resulting in what could be the best indie film of the year.

**** Out of 4.

Patti Cake$' | Geremy Jasper | U.S.A. | 2017 |108 Minutes.

Tags: New Jersey, Pharmacy, Rap Battle, Spitting Rhymes, Beats, Demo CD, Karaoke, Cadillac, Bartender, Diner, Catering, Chit Chat, Bulling, Cemetery, Recluse.

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