Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 2017 6:08 pm 
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Plus size white girl from Jersey as a rising rapper

Patricia Dombrowski (Australian find Danielle Macdonald) is a fat girl in New Jersey who pursues a challenging role as a rap artist with her best friend and co-star Hareesh (Siddharth Dhananjay), who works as a pharmacist assistant. Patti, aka Killa-P, aka to her macho competition Dumbo, works at part-time catering jobs, where she pushes her CD when she can. One big chance is a famous black rapper's spread, but when she demonstrates her style he puts out his cigar on the disc and tells her to stick with her day job, along with some cruel put-downs. A love interest appears in a black outsider death metal guitarist-singer who calls himself "Bastard - The Anti-Christ" (Mamoudou Athie): he lives in a shack with elaborate sound equipment and when he finally speaks turns out to be named Bob and have a dad who's a lawyer. The director lights up many scenes with humor and visual excitement and the actors have fun - this was a Sundance hit.

Patti's home life revolves around her disabled, cigarette smoking Nana (Cathy Moriarty) and her potty-mouth alcoholic mom Barb (Bridget Everett), who had singing aspirations in her youth and still has a good voice. Even Barb puts Patti's rap aspirations down. She gives up hope midway. But then she comes back to Hareesh and they enter a competition even Barb comes to, and shares in - a climactic performance that redeems this movie's hitherto spotty progress - it seems more interested in rap and music video-style moments and wallowing in down and dirty New Jersey white trash atmosphere to advance the plot much - with a galvanizing musical moment that makes you walk out humming along with Hareesh's melodious obligato.

Patti Cake$ may arouse comparisons with Precious - at least the haters call her "white Precious" - and various other films and worlds. It's of the flashy editing-surreal-bright colored style of filmmaking and might remind you of Tangerine in that regard, or the gay coming-of-age movie Closet Monster. Geremy Jasper, for whim this is the feature debut, has directed music videos, and many of the scenes sparkle with ADD editing and lurid colors - though paradoxically, Macdonald's rap performances shine most when she performs a cappella and the words are really clear. She lacks the precise diction, though she occasionally echoes the rhythms, of Eminem (Marshall Bruce Mathers II), the preeminent white rapper. Another comparison must be to the 2002 white rapper battle to recognition movie 8 Mile, written by Scott Silver and directed by the late Curtis Hansen. Though less dazzling visually, that one is more fantasy - after all, Eminem did become a famous rapper, and it has rap duels that are fascinating and real; Patti Cake$ lacks a sense of the creative process. But here there are multiple themes, rising from low life poverty inspired by MTV; recognition for other-sized ladies. This is the time of the underdog Millennials who have their day in the limelight.

Patti Cake$, 108 mins., debuted and was a hit at Sundance. It was screened for this review as part of New Directors/New Films (Film Society of Lincoln Center-MoMA) 2017, at is the Opening Night Film in the series. Ir is a Fox Searchlight release.

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