ND/NF Opening Night Review: ‘Patti Cake$’

This is an amazing gem of a film that’ll remind you of  ‘8 mile’ in a lot of ways

I think there’s something special about movies surrounding fictional figures in music. Patti Cake$ follows an aspiring rapper named Patricia, or Killer P, who struggles to break free from her hometown. From recent memory, there has been Whiplash, Inside Llewyn Davis, and 8 Mile, to name a few. I also think there’s something special about a new director. Similar to a song from the 2000’s, a new director could be lost in the crowd and be altogether unmemorable or it could be something that defines a generation. I suppose that makes this film an almost perfect storm of amazing potential. This is a great movie that will, as the New York Times describes, “give you a feeling of unambiguous joy”, but that doesn’t mean it falls short of it’s true potential.

No film is the effort of one man alone. However, this is very much the child of Geremy Jasper who wrote and directed this film, including the over 20 something raps and songs in the movie. This may be Geremy’s first full length film as a director as well as a writer, but he does a great job with it. From a directing point of view, he does a great deal with the little things. The lighting throughout the film tells a story in itself. The use of green light as an almost nod to the Great Gatsby, symbolizing an ideal life that could never be, to the lack of light and the slow brightening of Basterd’s room, showing his growing warmth are brilliant uses of an often overlooked aspect of a shot.

Danielle Macdonald, who plays the lead as Killer P, had mentioned to me that one thing that makes Geremy Jasper a great director is how he works with the actors and you can tell. He takes the time to help to make these actors, who themselves are not trained or professional actors in most cases, feel comfortable and pull off great performances throughout the film. Danielle herself gave an amazing performance as Killer P, which is even more amazing when you consider the fact that before the film she didn’t know how to rap. This film is filled with magnetic performances, including that of Siddharth Dhanajay, who gives off such amazing energy throughout the film in such a great role. Needless to say, fan favorite Bridget Everett, pulled off an amazingly captivating performance that made you love her, hate her, and especially feel for her. This film really thrives on it’s amazing performances and is the highlight of this film.

The film isn’t all perfect. In fact, I’d say it’s far from it. This movie is the story of Killer P as she chases some notion of success or acceptance, such as by leaving her town or having her favorite rapper approve of her. However, this movie lacks the grittiness and desperation in the main character that the other films I mentioned earlier on have. Although Killer P struggles with debt, you never feel worried for her or her finances, even when she has no job. A film doesn’t have to be gritty or have this desperation to be good, but this particular film does. This film, like the previously mentioned films, is one that examines the love of music. Sure, money and fame are by products, but at the end of the day, it’s all about being a great musician who makes great music and always holding to that dream despite the situations around you. Her journey never takes a turn that makes her truly confront this properly. Killer P’s journey feels formulaic and predictable, in addition to being easy and dream-like. Things come easily and you can see it coming. This predictable nature gives this film a very “cop-out” feel. Instead of making this a film about passion for music, it’s more like an 80’s film of a fun hobby a few adults do that eventually takes a turn for the profitable side. Once you start looking for the cop-outs, you’ll see them everywhere, such as in Killer P’s romance later on in the film. It was completely unnecessary to the film and her character. It also makes her journey one with music rather than a journey of music. In addition to that is the examination of the relationship between Killer P, her mother, and music. They both think they know the best when it comes to music and their climactic moment is all too predictable and reeks of a Hollywood ending. What starts off as a promising film that strives to be unique, different, and of a high quality ends up being just another simple, feel good movie. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s not the true potential of this movie.

If you liked 8 Mile, I guarantee you will love this movie and highly recommend you check it out. If you are looking for an innovative and new film that tackles the film world like only an indie or first film can, then you’re better off checking out something else.

We screened the film at the opening night of the New Directors/New Films Festival at MoMA.

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