+ high-res version

Watched: 12 November

Given that it’s a story about a white emcee who is trying to find their voice while simultaneously earning their stripes through street rap battles and battling economic and familial woe, one might think Patti Cake$ is just a retread of Curtis Hanson’s 8 Mile, but this story is about a female rapper and – despite one brief moment of violence and a narrative thread about a troubled home life – it’s far less rooted in reality than that earlier film. In fact there’s a Wizard Of Oz thread running throughout this feature debut by Geremy Jasper, which initially manifests itself during several green-hued dream sequences in which Patti (aka Jersey girl Patricia Dobrowski, aka Killa P) imagines herself enjoying a successful recording career and the patronage of a successful rapper called – heh – The O-Z. (Additionally the three unconventional members of the group Patti forms, PBNJ, become the Tin Man, Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion to her Dorothy.) The story presents lives being lived without much happiness and in partial chaos – particularly with regard to Patti and her alcoholic mother, a failed 80s hair metal singer – so there’s something disappointingly neat about the way in which several broken relationships and problems that have built up over years all seem to sort themselves out by the end, but of course this makes people who go to see uplifting indie films feel uplifted, so it serves a purpose of sorts (unsurprisingly, this was well received at Sundance). It’s also perplexingly light on the subject of race, and to what extent race might impact on issues such as authenticity, credibility and success within the hip-hop world – disappointing, given that Patti is white, the rapper presented as her nearest rival is white and her partner on stage is Asian. Anyway, it’s certainly very easy to root for the warm-hearted, put-upon Patti – who is bullied on account of being overweight – thanks to the terrific lead performance by Danielle Macdonald. (***)


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