Rated: R for language throughout, crude sexual references, some drug use and a brief nude image. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: August 18, 2017 Released by: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Living in the shadows of 8 Mile and Hustle & Flow is this comedy/drama fairly presciently showcased in terms of characters and situations set in gritty suburban northern New Jersey.
Patti Cake$ won't be acknowledged as very genuine, but as directed and written by Geremy Jasper it is, by turns, energetic and passionate, honest and raw. You get a fly-on-the-wall approach with some colorful, if garish surreal strokes providing an invitation into ambition and frustration of the titular early 20s sullen woman (Australian Danielle Macdonald).
She's dying to exit an existence where she works multiple jobs (at a bar and catering, for example). Domesticity includes dealing with her alcoholic, larger-than-life mother Barb (Bridget Everett), as well as cantankerous, wheezing Nana (Cathy Moriarty), both of whom had their musical aspirations fade.
Knocked due to her plus-size appearance, Patti has an intense fervor and skill for hip-hop, collaborating with effervescent Jheri (Siddharth Dhananjay). To have a discussion with death-metal anarchist Basterd (Mamoudou Athie) in order to unite with their act isn't easy, as they learn of his legal connections. Does their new vibrant sound have enough to catch the eye of an icon in the business (Sahr Ngaujah) to launch them in the direction of what achievement is desired?
Jasper's writing may hit some formulaic ebbs that include vicissitudes on various fronts, yet their is a creative immediacy with a personal touch at the fore. Macdonald (who learned the genre for the challenging role) delivers abundantly for the artful director (with a music video background) having faith and not trying to falter nor sink under the weight of troubles and worries. The aplomb, attitude (including obstinacy) is there, and she makes a winsome case for it.
Her scenes with Everett waver truthfully from bitterness to warmth; the men, especially Dhananjay and Athie have an understated charm to complement the all-around sharp, complex individuality on view (which includes the piquant veteran presence of Moriarty). In Patti Cake$ characters make choices that aren't as wise as first thought, but the relationships develop meaning. And, the enriching sonorous exhilaration of what is often a turn-off for many gravitates to a show-stopping crowdpleaser.