This coming-of-age story about an unlikely talent's quest for glory comes with a fresh, infectious vision.
"Patti Cake$" is an unexpected surprise. It stars a little-known actor who delivers a knockout performance worthy of serious attention. Think "Rocky" for rappers.
Danielle Macdonald portrays Patricia Dombrowski, a.k.a. Patti Cake$ and a.k.a. Killa P, an aspiring rapper who resides in a dead-end New Jersey town. And although she's known as "Dumbo" in the hood, Patti's swagger is self-assured — not to say she isn't riddled with overwhelming problems. Burdened by ever-rising medical bills for her Nana (the wonderful Cathy Moriaty) and a strained relationship with her alcoholic mother (a fantastic Bridget Everett), Patti's dream seems elusive at best.
But she has the support of two friends, who are misfits like her: best buddy and sidekick rapper Jheri (Siddharth Dhananjay), who believes in Patti's talent with fierce loyality, and new-to-the-hood Basterd (Mamoudou Athie), who has a recording setup in his whacked-out cabin next to the cemetery.
Basterd, a total loner, is immensely impressed with Patti's work and agrees to help her record a CD, along with Jheri and Nana (Moriarty hasn't lost those sexy, raspy pipes). The rest is history with a multitude of setbacks.
Director-writer Geremy Jasper has crafted an incredible feature debut with "Patti Cake$." Primarily known for his music videos, Jasper has found his niché big-time in this bittersweet, toe-tapping tribute to dreamers. And although the coming-of-age story of an unlikely talent's quest for glory has been done before, Jasper's vision is unique and infectious.
But most of the credit for "Patti Cake$'s" energetic likeability belongs to Ms. Macdonald ("Every Secret Thing"). A native Australian, she had to learn a Jersey accent and how to perform rap (Jasper wrote all of the lyrics). It's a bit like life imitating art. And she pulls it off, brilliantly. Her performance is so incredibly raw, it is truly a revelation to behold ... worthy of an Oscar nod.
"Patti Cake$" has universal appeal. Even if you can't stand rap, you can't help being drawn into this vibrant film's allure. It reminds us that life is full of disappointments but, also, rewards that make it all worthwhile.
Stay for the credits to catch Bruce Springsteen's "The Time that Never Was."