Sometimes a movie really surprises me. I thought I would enjoy Patti Cake$ (I don’t go see movies I think I’ll dislike!) but I didn’t expect to love it. Or to be surprised by it. And I certainly didn’t expect to learn something.
Danielle MacDonald is Patti, aka Killer P aka a whole lot of other things including, for some reason “Dumbo” to those who remember her from school. She lives in a poor area, working hand-to-mouth and with zero traditional prospects for a better life. But she has a dream. She believes she can make it big in the world of rap.
I’m not going to write about the plot of the film, because that was one of the delightful surprises in this movie. It takes what you expect to happen and every time it twists those expectations around beautifully.
Patti’s dream is shared by her best friend Jheri (Siddharth Dhananjay). Rap is their safety-valve, the place they pour the frustrations and disappointments of their lives.. Their fledgeling musical partnership suddenly becomes something with potential when they team up with a mysterious, angry stranger played by Mamoudou Athie. But this is no X-Factor Cinderella story.
This is real life. Good things happen, but are always counterbalanced by bad things and setbacks. People struggle to pay bills, cops break up gatherings, idols have feet of clay and life truly sucks. And through it all, Patti has her eyes on the prize. She does get knocked down, at one point she gives up, but even as she does you can see her optimism hiding under the brittle surface.
I have little ear for music at the best of times and none at all for this type of music, so I can’t say whether it’s any good or even how well this film reflects the scene. Patti is the opposite of Rap’s traditional (Black, hyper-masculine, bling-filled) culture, yet somehow this works.
It’s funny, uplifting, surprisingly romantic, tragic, relentless, fully grounded and just bloody brilliant. Best of all, I left the theatre thinking I have actually learned to appreciate, if not to like, this alien style of music. I’m not going to rush out and buy the album, but I think I get it now, at least a little.