She's heavy, talented, a rapper, and white: What's not to like?
Director: Geremy Jasper
Cast: Danielle Macdonald (Every Secret Thing), Bridget Everett (Trainwreck)
Runtime: 1 hr 48 min
by John DeSando
You don’t have to like rap music or plus-sized women to like Geremy Jasper’s gritty Patti Cake$. The story of working-class North Jersey girl Patti (Danielle Macdonald) working through the challenges of poverty, dead-end jobs, and family dysfunction to become a rapper is alternately clichéd, sentimental, and poignant.
If it weren’t about rap, it would be about any other impoverished young woman pursuing her dream despite the daunting Newark world. Think 8 Mile and the ultimate working-class to riches, Rocky.
Her dogged pursuit is uplifting where another overweight young woman might fold hearing the regular shout-outs calling her “Dumbo.” Where in Precious the audience might be aware of Precious’s weight, here Patti’s movement out of poverty is the major concern. In fact, she has been called “White Precious.” Fortunately, she has boyfriends and male colleagues who believe in her talent and in some cases love her.
It’s not that Patti is loveable because Jasper’s script does not allow her to be sweet. It’s just that she makes sacrifices for her dying grandma and washed-up singer mom while she also nurtures her band, PBnJ, to where they can have the minor break on a local stage they have longed for.
Special note for actress Danielle Macdonald: Amazingly you are not a Joiesy girl, you are from Australia; you are not a rapper, you are a fine actress who can believably rap with the best. For those of us who love classical music and mid-20thcentury folk, as I listen to the layers of culture in each rap song, I believe I could become a believer. Not enough songs, however, in this film.
I should not forget to praise the soundtrack from Bruce Springsteen to unknown hip hop—it is full of the joy Patti has for her poetry; we just need to give her a chance.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com