Patricia “Killa P” Dombrowski (Danielle Macdonald) lives with Barb (Bridget Everett), her alcoholic mother, and her aging Nana (Cathy Moriarty). They struggle to make ends meet, with Patti usually serving as the responsible adult in the house, bringing in the money.
All Patti wants is to be a rapper. She has stacks of notebooks of songs she has written. Her dream is to get a demo to rap superstar O-Z (Sahr Ngaujah) so he can sign her to his label. Patti and Jheri (Siddarth Dhananjay), her best friend/rap partner team up with a musician known as Basterd (Mamoudou Athie) and begin putting together an album. The owner of a local gentlemen’s club has promised to let them use his club as the venue for an album release party for the trio.
As Barb continues her self-destructive ways and Nana’s health declining, Patti begins to question if her dreams are really attainable.
In his first feature film, director Geremy Jasper brings a distinct feel to Patti Cake$ that shows his history as a music video director.
Danielle Macdonald plays the titular Patricia, aka Killa P, aka Patti Cake$. She brings some real heart to the role. Learning to rap for the film, Macdonald’s hard work pays off. Siddarth Dhananjay is Patti’s best friend. Both Patti and Jheri are outcasts, of sorts. They don’t really fit in with the people around them, and definitely not in the rap scene. It is a choice that adds some realism to the film. Fellow outcast/musical activist Basterd is well played by Mamoudou Athie. He lives alone in a house in the woods and doesn’t conform to any of society’s expectations, making him a good fit with Macdonald and Dhananjay’s characters.
The story is a bit formulaic, but it works overall. The film is a bit slow at the beginning as we build up to Patti and Jheri really finding their place. Once we get to the scenes where Patti is rapping, things get more interesting. Geremy Jasper uses a lot of unique camera angles and splicing of scenes that show his roots in music videos. These choices paired with Macdonald’s performances are the highlights of the film and really make the movie what it is.
Feeling like a female-led 8 Mile, Patti Cake$ is a pretty solid film. It takes a while to find its footing, but once it does, it becomes a good movie. To appreciate the cinematography, I would recommend seeing it in the theater. However, you would probably be just as well off waiting for the rental.