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Patti Cake$

By: Jessica Goddard

Geremy Jasper’s Patti Cake$ is a fresh and energetic take on the “wannabe rapper” sub-sub-genre.

23-year-old Patricia Dombrowski or “Killa P” (and sometimes “Patti Cakes”) is an aspiring rapper in a particularly forsaken part of New Jersey.  The only supporters of her dream are her best friend Jheri, a pharmacist with similar ambitions, and her snappy grandma, who faces increasingly ill-health and is confined to a wheelchair.  Meanwhile, Patti’s mother is a washed-up alcoholic who at one time might have had a promising career as a pop singer, but is now too cynical to encourage her daughter in pursuing dreams of her own.  When Patti’s not filling notebooks with (genuinely fantastic) rhymes, she works at a bar to help pay off the creditors who call her frequently to threaten that this is her and her mother’s final warning.

Everything from the run-down setting of the story to Patti’s home and work life are fully fleshed-out and pumped with credibility and realism.  Geremy Jasper and his cast do an excellent job of making you want this girl to succeed.  As a witness to her true and unmistakable talent, you’re rooting for Patti and just waiting for her to triumphantly shine.  But there’s nothing predictable about the direction of this story – we expect to see Patti win the small victories she deserves, only to watch her being foiled repeatedly.  All of the trials in this story feel urgent and highly important;  as it should feel in the competitive, sink-or-swim world of rap.

The strained bond between Patti and her mother is one of the most fascinating elements of the film, as this complicated and volatile relationship is depicted fairly so both sides of each issue are evenly represented.  For sure, the story could do without the forced romantic subplot (an aspect which is somewhat uncomfortably wedged in) but the film’s pacing is so good, that this is easy to ignore.

Patti Cake$ has everything: comedy, great music, great acting, and a truly compelling script.  This take on the classic underdog story is right on the money.

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Jessica Goddard: @TheJGod

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