Precious’ Meets ‘Hustle & Flow’ in ‘Patti Cake$
by Nile Fortner
Patti Cake$ is a heartwarming story about a young woman from New Jersey named Patricia Dombrowski, who has dreams of achieving stardom and success as a rapper. Patricia, aka Killer P, aka Patti Cake$, wants to follow in the same footsteps of her favorite rapper. In order to achieve this goal, Patti receives help from her friend, a mysterious Goth musician, and her supportive grandmother.
First time director, writer, and composer, Geremy Jasper, is off the heezie, off the hook, and off the chain in his debut film. The best part of this film would definitely be the writing for these characters. The whole underdog story of chasing glory has been told many times before. On the other hand, the characters are so well-rounded in this film that you find yourself connecting with them emotionally.
It’s not just the individual characters but the relationships between them. The film does have a few comedic moments, but it’s mostly a drama, and most of that drama comes from the complex relationship Patti has with her mother.
Patti’s boozing-up karaoke-loving mother named Barb seems so similar to Patti, yet the two simply don’t understand each other. Barb loves karaoke and is quite famous at a local bar that Patti works at. Barb has her own rock ‘n roll fantasies when doing karaoke. Similarly, much like the film Precious, Patti has visions and daydreams of being on stage and performing in music videos dropping her rhymes. Barb tells Patti, “Act like your race,” Patti responds, “Act like your age.” This shows how the two are more similar of wanting to escape their everyday reality, yet they feel so different from each other because as Barb says, “The music is different.”
Patti is a very sympathetic character that you want to get behind because she has been an underdog all her life. Her mother doesn’t care for rap and hip-hop music and people are constantly putting Patti down.
Since she was a child, locals have made fun of Patti. They call her Dumbo, white precious, and during a freestyle rap battle, a guy who works at a pizzeria is constantly fat-shamming and making sexual humiliation remarks at Patti. This makes Patti feel bad as it would most people in that situation. But I like how this showed Patti as a strong character that isn’t going to cry from the cruelty, but use it as a motivator. Pattie strikes back with some hard-hitting flows.
Patti’s best friend, Jheri, is more than just a sidekick partner for Patti, but he is like Patti’s cheerleader. By this I mean, Jheri offers support and is a great friend to Patti. I found Jheri’s character to bring in some of the laughs. Jheri’s character was needed to bring in some comedy when the drama got a little too heavy. These two characters easily have the best on-screen chemistry whenever they share a scene together.
Patti and Jheri find a local African-American Marilyn Manson looking punk Goth rocker to help them create instrumentals/beats. The Goth rocker goes by the name Basterd, and he lives in a shack in a cemetery. The three of them form a group known as PBNJ, while Basterd and Patti form an interesting romantic relationship. Showing how people from different backgrounds and interests can come together for a common purpose is a great message whenever Patti and Basterd share the screen together.
Much like Jheri, Patti’s grandmother also brings in the laughs because she is the stereotypical comedic loud mouth personification of the New Jersey women. Her character is similar to Jheri because she brings in laughs and supports our main characters. Patti’s grandmother is a strong supportive woman and serves as a character that makes Patti feel safe.
This movie also reminded me of 8 Mile and Hustle & Flow because it takes this unlikely character that wants to be a rapper and it pushes that message to follow your dreams, and a message of encouragement. On the other hand, I think those movies packed more drama and I couldn’t help but feel how this movie looks more like a music video than a feature film.
The raps are well written and performed, and Geremy Jasper did a good job writing these raps. I listen to rap, hip-hop, and have been to a few freestyle rap battles and the way these rhymes were written does show some creativity. The song in the movie “PBNJ” is pretty catchy and I like the line “I’m all up in this bitch like a tampon,” I did laugh out loud when I heard that.
One issue that I also have with this film is I have a hard time placing what era this is supposed to be in. The film opens up with Patti using a CD player, wearing that formerly popular black t-shirt with a pile of green skulls as the design, while reciting lyrics to rap artist Paul Wall as she brushes her teeth. These are all things I personally haven’t seen since my last year in elementary school but still remember.
I’m glad this movie is trying to explore other time periods other than all the movies we’ve been getting that take place in the 1980’s though. I like the movies, music, and culture of the 1980’s as much as the next guy, but we could easily explore the 1990’s and or early 2000’s as this movie seems to be trying to do.
Overall, even if you don’t like rap, Patti Cake$ is a great feminine underdog story I think most people can get something out of. The characters are the strongest element and it’s a relatable movie with a message for the viewers. This movie had me in good spirits and Patti Cake$ should be on your watching radar. I believe ‘Patti Cake$’ earns a …
3.5 out of 5 PattiPieces!