Each year, countless movies I review never live up to the pre-release hype, despite award-winning directors and easy-to-watch, proven big-screen stars headlining those films. But, like a history professor reading from a stack of term papers at the end of a college course, a gem will emerge on film from time to time that separates it from the rest. These magnificent works shine brighter than all others-even the very good ones. For me, these stellar movies, from start to finish, appear in theaters only a handful of times over the course of a calendar year. “Patti Cake$” is one of these movies.
“Patti Cake$” follows the dream of one Patricia Dumbromski, a young, overweight, white female from New Jersey who lives with her alcoholic mother (Bridget Everett) and wheelchair-assisted grandmother, Nana (Cathy Moriarty). Patti, who calls herself the moniker “Killer P” as she tries to show off her terse rapping tongue, is constantly body-shamed by neighborhood bullies and chastised by her mother, a washed up 1980s talent now left singing in a dive bar to sustain her drinking problem.
I have deep respect for rappers as artists, but their music won’t find its way into my iTunes playlists. I did not, however, see this sensational underdog story coming.
In fact, I knew next to nothing about the plot-line before sitting down to see it. I was floored by “Patti Cake$”. It’s powerful, and inspiring; an uplifting music story about one’s aspirations of making it big in the rap business. Leading star and singer, Australian newcomer Danielle Macdonald as Patti, is a superstar both on-stage and off in “Patti Cake$”.
Attempting to break into one of the hardest music cultures in the industry and justify her serious rapping repertoire to naysayers, Patti never loses faith in herself or those closest to her. The film’s entire ensemble is superb and deals authenticity to the screen in large doses of realism. Killer P may have a special gift when it comes to rap lyrics and confidence on stage, but that doesn’t mean life’s doors won’t need to be pounded until one opens.
Several aspects of “Patti Cake$” make this film a chart-topper. Three performances stand out. Macdonald’s magical rise would not have been possible without the spectacular job she did selling herself as a rap heavyweight buying her time. Hareesh (Siddarth Dhananjay) is fabulous as Patti’s biggest supporter and closest confidant. But no screen role, aside from Macdonald’s, can match that of Everett’s: A lost, sometimes angry soul whose stage time has passed her by.
This exceptional film stays believable from the start and never loses its grip on the audience. In the best final scene since last year’s emotional, best picture nominated “Lion”, the “Patti Cake$” ending is both perfect and real. If viewers can sit through crude and rude dialogue throughout, they’ll find an engrossing and deeply satisfying film endeavor.
Earning my first A+ letter-grade in 2017, here’s “Patti Cake$”. Close your eyes and open your ears to a superstar!