PATTI CAKE$S. US, 2017, 109 minutes, Colour. Danielle Macdonald, Bridget Everett, Siddharth Dhananjay, Mamoudou Athie, Cathy Moriarty. Directed by Geremy Jasper.
This is definitely a film for audiences rapt in Rap.
While Rap is an American phenomenon, especially developed by African-Americans, it has spread in more recent years right throughout the world, many indigenous groups drawing on the traditions of Rap to explore ideas and feelings in the lyrics and the rhythms.
Basically, this is a familiar story about young people with musical ambitions, developing their talent, spreading their hopes, experiencing setbacks, working through them to achieve some kind of success. It has been seen as the foundation for many films about singers and musicians. This time about Rap. The director of the film is obviously an enthusiast because he has contributed to many of the songs throughout the film.
Patti is a young woman living in New Jersey with her mother and grandmother. She is played by Australian actress, Danielle Macdonald, and one might she is in the tradition of Rebel Wilson. And she loves rap, composing songs, practising, getting a few local gigs. She is joined by a young man who works in a local pharmacy, Indian background, who is enthusiastic as she is, even more so in performance. The other member of the group, by contrast, is a rather laconic African-American, replete with facial rings, who goes under the name of Bastard field, is Bob.
Patti works as a caterer, fairly successful in a restaurant but then going out to cater for various functions – including a dinner for a celebrated rap artist, slipping him the CD that she and her group have made, he proving to be an arrogant snob. She is disheartened and prepared to give up. At home, there is a crisis with her grandmother, with whom she is great friends (Cathy Moriarty) having a stroke and then dying. Her mother (Bridget Everett) as they might say is a tough broad, a big strong woman, a talent for belting out a song, which she does in a local club – but finds her moment at the culmination of the film in joining Patti in song.
The film fills in the background of life in the suburbs of New Jersey, indicating the this is not necessarily the place to build a musical career. However, Patti does get an opportunity to revive her group, apologise to the others for her harsh treatment of them, gets her mother to dye her hair, dresses up, goes to a local club to perform in a competition. The group is on its way…
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office.