Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Patti Cake$. A really strong underdog story.

"It's always darkest before the dawn" - Florence Welch.

I love going to see a film I know nothing about. It's a nice experience going in cold.  And it's exponentially improved when the film turns out to be really good. It's a lovely gamble to win.

Patti Cake$ was one such gamble and it paid off royally.

It's the story of a young woman called Patricia Dumbrowski from Bayonne, New Jersey who dreams of using her pretty damn great talents as a rapper to escape her dreary grind of an existence. She lives with her sick granny who she loves and her alcoholic mother who she doesn't. Her only friend is a pharmacist called Jheri who shares her dreams. One night at a open mic show she gets inspired and decides now is the time to make her dream come through. But life has an awfully shitty habit of getting in the way.

I thoroughly enjoyed this. I left the cinema with a pure dopey grin on my face. I do love a good underdog tale. There has however been dozens of films like this. TBH if you've ever seen a film you'll have a rough idea of how it's going to do. But few films tell their stories with this much vim. With a main character who you think you are going to be annoyed by but end up loving. It's well acted all around. Like Patti's rhymes it has a lovely flow. If you go into this expecting Ali G/white rap type cringiness you ain't going to find it. Patti is a genuinely gifted musician. The only thing holding her back is herself, her fear of failure, her fear of being ridiculed. Her fellow musicians are skilled too. The lads freestyling outside the local petrol station are talented. It's not a film making fun of its subjects. It shows us their dreary lifestyles so we'll hope and pray they can escape them. It's quite a sad and depressing film in places. Living in New Jersey they can see the the Manhattan skyline but it may as well be a million miles away. So close yet so far away. This is director Geremy Jasper's first feature length film and it's one he can be rightly proud of.

Danielle McDonald as Patti aka Killer P aka Patti Cake$ is just brilliant. I've never seen her in anything before but I hope I see her in lots in the future. I feared at first the film would make fun of her appearance or use it as a running joke but it was never an issue which was refreshing. She's a great character. You want her to succeed, you want her to do well. Every knock back she receives will feel like a personal insult to you. She's so good you'll overlook the slight silliness of some scenes and just want to cheer her on. She carries the film perfectly. Bridget Everett as her mam is good too. Hateful at first but slowly her problems become relatable and her humanity starts to seep out. Siddharth Dhananjay as Jheri is great fun. His character brings the laughs but his brotherly feelings and awe of Patti's skills are clear to see. Mamoudou Athie as Basterd The Antichrist is the 3rd member of their crew and brings a nice unpredictable edge to the film. His look and musical genius mixed with Patti's words gives the movie it's impetus. He's a man of few words but he puts them across in a very meaningful way. Lastly Cathy Moriarty is in good form as Patti's cantankerous but loving granny. She mightn't like the music her grand daughter creates but she appreciates her talent nonetheless.

The film touches on cultural appropriation too. I'm glad it did. To ignore it in 2017 would be stupid. Patti is called a culture vulture in one scene and it hits home with her, really rattles her. Not much more is mentioned on the subject as it's not meant to be a political film but the acknowledgement of it at least was welcome. 

At 108 minutes it's too long and a few bits and pieces here and there could have been snipped. One or two subplots bubble up but nothing comes of them either and these could have been easily lost. And as I mentioned earlier, these stories tend to be rather predictable too but these petty grievances aside I really liked this.

Think of it as Rocky meets Eight Mile. Superb acting and characters you'll really care about. How could you go wrong like?

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