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REVIEW – “Patti Cake$”

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Riding out your Sundance hype is a tough thing to pull off for some films – you can have the most acclaim in the world at that festival and yet not find an audience once your film hits the market with whatever distributor picks it up. Patti Cake$ is a Sundance film through and through – a quirky yet dramatic underdog story about an inspiring and unlikely rapper named Patricia (Australian breakout Danielle MacDonald) trying to make it big with her best friend Hareesh (Siddharth Dhananjay) and escape the slumps of modern-day New Jersey. Along the way, she crosses paths with a mysterious music obsessed, punk rock man who goes by “Bastard the Antichrist” – with the help of Bastard, Hareesh, and even her grandmother (the wonderfully vulgar Cathy Moriarty) they create a group called “PBNJ”.

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As I previously said – this film is a Sundance film if you’ve ever seen one. It hits a lot of familiar beats that you’ve seen before, but it’s a ride worth going through due to the distinct style and voice behind the camera. Director Geremy Jasper brings a unique vision to a somewhat familiar story, giving the familiar beats a worthy twist. Danielle MacDonald carries this film brilliantly as the titular Patti – her rhymes are wonderfully kick-ass, she delivers the comedic moments nearly perfectly, and elevates the dramatic aspects of the film to another level. She creates a sympathetic character that hardly relies on her weight issues – but simply as an underdog who feels trapped within a city full of people who don’t understand what she’s about; A message that almost everyone who watches can relate to on some level.

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One of the more endearing and realistic aspects of the film is Patti’s relationship with her mother (Bridget Everett), which consists of loud fights, struggling to pay bills, and constantly dreaming about things being better than what they are. The chemistry between MacDonald and Everett is spot-on, and the writing for the two is nearly perfect. It’s a bit conventional on paper, but the way their relationship is presented feels incredibly authentic. Once it goes for the inevitable heartwarming moment between the two, it feels real and earned – which pretty much sums up why Patti Cake$ works as well as it does. It isn’t a phony Sundance film that is quirky for the sake of being quirky or unconventional just to stray from the norm – it’s all in service to the story it’s telling, and by the end it comes full circle in a satisfying way that is earned due to the ups and downs you go through with Patti.

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My only glaring issue with the film is that the third act, while earnest and sincere, does feel a bit rushed. Maybe it was because I found the film so entertaining, but I thought the finale could’ve benefited from an additional 10-15 minutes of relishing in what the entire film was heading towards. To counter my negative, however – I do admire that the film doesn’t view success in an unrealistic way. Progress and fame come slow, and I admire how Patti Cake$ is hardly ever flashy and doesn’t necessarily need to be. There was room to have the finale sink and it hit a few more emotional punches, but for the most part, it stays true to the tone and vibe of the entire feature. This is a confident and endlessly entertaining relief for the end of the Summer. It’s well worth seeking out. 4/5.

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