So often when you hear about the frantic bidding wars that burn the midnight oil at Sundance as studios scramble to sign up the latest over-hyped movie, it always ends in tears. Seems like every year when a new record price is paid the Studio then struggles to make a profit, and in the cases like 2016’s Birth of A Nation, even recoup costs. This year however is probably going to be an entirely different scenario as the movie that was most bitterly fought over was the breakout hit Patti Cake$ which introduced to the world the most unlikely next big acting superstar to light up our screens for a very long time.
Danielle Macdonald is a 26 year old Australian actress not that you could tell as there is a not a hint of her accent as she stars as Patti living in a run-down part of New Jersey where being ‘white trash’ is almost like a badge of honor. Patti is an overweight part-time bartender in a small shabby bar, but dreams of being a rapper and so spends all her waking hours composing her ‘spit’ to perform. Her only friend, and her biggest fan, is Hareesh (Siddharth Dhanjay) who comes across as a closeted gay man, and it is he who single-handedly encourages to pursue what becomes both their dreams.
When she is rapping she calls herself Killa-P but local thugs disparagingly taunt her and insist on calling her Dumbo. They have absolutely no respect for her even when she engages their drug-dealer leader (McCaul Lombardi) in a rap battle and beats him hands down.
She lives in a hovel of a house with thher mother Barb (Bridget Everett) a blousy blonde who used to sing with a band once, but now seems to exist by sponging money and drinks off her daughter. There is also Nana her very ill grandmother (Cathy Moriarty) who is much closer to Patti than her mother, and the two indulge and dote on each other.
At the same time Patti is trying to save money from her pittance of a wage to make a demo tape, she is also expected to pay the household expenses including Nana’s long overdue medical expenses. She however dries up on her first attempt to record anything and is now in despair having blown all her of her money on this aborted attempt. However she comes across a manic punk rocker who calls himself the Antichrist (Mamoudou Athie) who could just be her musical Saviour.
She tracks him down to his cave like shack beyond the graveyard and persuades to help lay down what becomes her new band’s signature piece. They get a gig to try out their music live in a sleazy strip joint which is just one step too far for Patti who swears to give up on her rapping ….. which as her mother screamed at her ….is hardly music.
There is of course a big Cinderella moment to the tale which follows one of those big ‘ah ha’ moments when mother and daughter belt out an impromptu moment at a live gig which brings the house down ….. and a few tears to our eyes too. Full credit to the music video director Geremy Jasper whose brilliant feature film debut this is, for avoiding the obvious ending and giving us one that so fits Patti who we are so entranced by at this point.
Macdonald is electrifying with her tour-de-force performance and it is exhilarating watching her make this sad lost creature so completely lovable ….. the only people who probably will not agree are the New Jersey Tourist Board, as she so convinces everyone to not to want to ever step foot in the State ever again. The chemistry between MacDonald and Everett (who usually plays Amy Schumer’s pal) was so pitch perfect, as it was also with Moriaty playing Nana.
Some may be put off by Jeremy’s in-your-face music …… the very first ne is ‘mylifesfuckinawsome‘ and that’s one of the tamer ones. But to see this larger-than-life sloppy white girl defy all the resistance and obstacles to become the rapper she always dreamed about, is worth sitting through some outrageous lyrics that made even us blush at times.
Movies that are such a breath of fresh air and herald a brand new mega-star in the making like this, come along far to infrequently for anyone to even hesitate for single moment about going to see it.