Patti Cake$ movie review: This coming-of-age film about rap sticks to tropes but has chutzpah

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The 19th edition of the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival is finally here, and with it comes an unending list of critically acclaimed Indian and international films to watch. Some of these are submissions for the Oscars, while others are hitherto untold, hyperlocal stories. Firstpost will review the most promising of these films.

As far as coming-of-age films go, Patti Cake$ stays quite close to the tropes. But it does so with chutzpah.

Patricia Dombrowski (Danielle MacDonald) is a 23-year-old stuck in a rut. An alcoholic mother tortured by regret, an invalid grandmother, mounting debts, a dead-end job and pipe dreams are all she has. Patti is caught between duty and a desperate desire to break away, and she’s never too far from humiliation stemming from her plus size figure. Her best friend, Hareesh (Siddharth Dhananjay), is a believer though, and he’s sure that Patti’s talent as a rapper will take her far.

Patti lives in a small town in New Jersey where dreams go to die. But she hopes to one day cross the bridge into New York and become a successful rap artist. On paper, Patti is the antithesis of a rapper – she’s female, white and overweight. The men in her ‘hood heartlessly call her Dumbo and a local music producer reminds her that rap is not part of her culture.

A still from Patti Cake$. Image from Facebook/@PattiCakesMovie

A still from Patti Cake$. Image from Facebook/@PattiCakesMovie

Writer-director Geremy Jasper writes an audacious character. Patti is an underdog who unites with other misfits to form a hip-hop band called PBNJ. She swallows the humiliation of public body shaming and converts her hurt into hip-hop rhyme, boldly decimating her opponent. The hip-hop songs are catchy and the lyrics both irreverent and original.

However, the handful of surprises in Jasper’s script are consciously pumped-up, such as the wheelchair-bound grandmother and the punk rocker with body piercings who lives in a shed near a cemetery. Where the story scores is in the complex relationship between the mother and daughter. During a sharp exchange between the two, Patti says to her mother, “Why don’t you act your age?”, to which Barb (Bridget Everett) replies, “Why don’t you act your race.”

As Patti, MacDonald delivers a mature and moving performance, breathing life into the rhymes and the spaces between the beats, which is not a comfortable place. It is one where defeatism, cynicism and optimism are in conflict.

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Published Date: Oct 13, 2017 05:40 pm | Updated Date: Oct 13, 2017 05:40 pm

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