Beloved and much acclaimed at this year's Sundance Film Festival Patti Cake$ is an underdog story that gave me unexpected enjoyment although I did take a while to warmth it.
Patti (Danielle Macdonald) is up against it. Her family situation could be better, living with her Gran and verging on alcoholic Mum she is responsible for household income, dodging calls from the hospital about bills and living in a down trodden strip mall ridden area of New Jersey. Her only escape is a pipe dream that will again be difficult to overcome. She wants to be a hip hop star and in her persona of Killa-P has enough bars and lyrics to make the best MC's in her neighbourhood think twice about taking her on. A white , female MC is never going to have it easy even with the undying support of her friend and hype man Jheri (Siddharth Dhananjay). Patti is once again up against it and but has an unwavering determination that keeps the dream alive.
Initially Patti Cake$ caught me off guard. Knowing little of the premise and judging on appearances I expected a comedy, a spoof, a send up of 8 Mile with a female lead. An opening dream sequence did little to alleviate my preconceived notions. A ludicrous rap god/idol figure the object of Patti's worship and aspirations were so ludicrously drawn that I initially expected to really dislike the film. As the film drew on however I settled into the rhythm and found story of a young women facing so many battles she didn't know which to tackle first.
Patti's relationship with her mother is perhaps the films most interesting aspect. Strained at times to near breaking point Patti is determined to not repeat her story, even when she discovers that her mother at one time was close to breaking through eight her own band. Indeed when her mother takes up the mic at the local bar's karaoke night Patti watches with an almost begrudging respect and sadness that is a wonderful moment.
It is uphill all the way for Patti but by the films conclusion, I found my self willing her on, tapping my toe and nodding in respect of her lyrical content.
I do still have some reservations that Patti Cake$ may struggle to find an audience as Im unclear as to whom the target demographic of cinema goer is. However, I cannot deny that given my initial reluctance to engage with Patti Cake$ the film makers may have got the exact reaction they hoped for. The message is quite clear never judge a book by its cover