PATTI CAKE$

The Chronicle - - Film Reviews -

IN­SPIRED by writer-director Geremy Jasper’s ef­forts to break into the New York music scene, Patti Cake$ is a crowd-pleas­ing un­der­dog story, which wears its heart on its sleeve.

This mod­ern-day fa­ble about shoot­ing for the moon, when ev­ery­one is telling you to dream smaller, earned stand­ing ova­tions when it pre­miered at this year’s Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val.

The film’s un­likely hero­ine – an over­weight New Jersey 20-some­thing with a tal­ent for im­mor­tal­is­ing her day-to-day ex­is­tence in snappy verse – is a di­a­mond in the rough, who just needs that one slice of luck to re­alise her po­ten­tial.

Ev­ery time life beats her down, she gets back to her feet and re­tal­i­ates with a spon­ta­neously crafted bar­rage of weaponised word­play.

Jasper penned the songs and he gifts melodic di­a­logue to a small yet per­fectly aligned cast.

“I’m an an­ar­chist,” pro­claims one death metal noise­maker to ex­plain his dis­turb­ing Mar­i­lyn Man­sonesque ap­pear­ance.

“I think I’m Epis­co­palian,” ten­derly replies the un­shock­able hero­ine.

This star in the mak­ing is Pa­tri­cia Dom­browski (Danielle Mac­don­ald), who fan­ta­sises about public ado­ra­tion un­der her rap­per moniker Killa-P to ri­val her gold-toothed hip hop idol, O-Z (Sahr Ngau­jah).

Alas, Pa­tri­cia is stuck in a dead-end job tend­ing the bar where her booze-soaked

Rap­per de­lights: Danielle Mac­don­ald as Patti Dom­browski mother Barb (Brid­get Everett) belts out 1980s an­thems on the karaoke ma­chine, and lo­cals cru­elly taunt her plus-size fab­u­lous­ness by call­ing her Dumbo.

Music is Pa­tri­cia’s es­cape from crush­ing re­al­ity and she com­poses tight rhymes with her best friend, Jheri (Sid­dharth Dhanan­jay).

Barb’s mu­si­cal am­bi­tions as lead singer of a glam metal band crum­bled to dust many years ago. When she learns that Pa­tri­cia in­tends to fol­low a sim­i­lar path to star­dom, the mother pours scorn on her daugh­ter’s in­ten­tions.

Un­daunted, Pa­tri­cia forges a cre­ative union with a self­anointed An­tichrist (Mamoudou Athie) in the hope of find­ing the per­fect beat for her con­fes­sional lyrics.

Dreams shat­ter and Pa­tri­cia turns to her emo­tional rock, Nana (Cathy Mo­ri­arty).

“I thought I could be some­one,” whim­pers the rap­per.

“You al­ready are,” smiles Nana. “You’re my su­per­star.”

Patti Cake$ ex­udes a roughly hewn charm that ex­tends to the stel­lar lead per­for­mance from up-and­com­ing Aus­tralian ac­tress Mac­don­ald. She is irresistible in the lead role.

Ev­ery time Pa­tri­cia doubts her tal­ents, Dhanan­jay’s side­kick is on hand to shake her out of the fug.

Re­la­tion­ships be­tween Pa­tri­cia and the older women are sen­si­tively sketched.

Hope­ful­ness bumps and grinds with emo­tional hard knocks, re­mind­ing us that dark­ness cour­ses be­neath the sur­face of the best fairy tales.

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