Patti Cake$ (2017)

August 9th, 2017
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Geremy Jasper | Cast: Danielle Macdonald, Bridget Everett | Siddarth Dharanjay | Drama | 108′

PATTI CAKE$ follows a common formula: a depressed and overweight girl has aspirations of making it in the music business with hopes kindled by the likes of X Factor. This is not New York City but the backwaters of New Jersey, where our heroine’s day job is in a bottom-feeders downtown bar.

With the buzz around celebritiy status, these kind of ‘talent discovery’  films are becoming predictably schematic: on one level they feed the dreams of the disenchanted, but in a world where everyone can become a star, the firmament gets rather overheated. And this is the case with PATTI CAKE$ which is sparky, well-made and cinematic, a bit saggy in the middle – you may doze off – but otherwise perfectly decent. The main character Patti, also known as Killer P, Dumbo and Patricia (newcomer Danielle MacDonald) is, as usual, bored with her humdrum existence at home with skanky mom Barb (Bridget Everett) and fag-smoking grandma (Cathy Moriarty) who is laid up in bed unable to pay her medical bills. So far, so convincing. Patti’s best mates with the local chemist Hareesh (Siddharth Dhananjay) who joins around with her when she comes in for grandma’s drugs, then joins her in a sudden outlandish ‘star-quest’ to the Big City.

But where is the evidence of Patricia’s musical talents, or grafting towards a career in that direction? Apart from noting down a few lines in a notebook, there is no backstory or history that makes us want to root for her as a budding star, or any great tunes – for that matter. Patti’s dream rapper is also a fictional star, rather than a real one, and a cypher into the bargain, adding further bum notes to this musical drama. Then we’re led to believe that her Black mate and ‘enabler’ Bob, aka the Antichrist, is some charismatic mystical charmer who ends up having little to say – let alone sing or play.

After a few setbacks, the action culminates in a showcase rap competition where her mother is grafted in to aid and abet proceedings with her trusty lung power, consoling the teary two in a crowd-pleasing finale. PATTI CAKE$ works as light entertainment but certainly no standout, as we were led to believe by the Sundance hype earlier on this year. MT



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