Sundance 2017 Review: Patti Cake$ – Jersey Sho Nuff!

Patti Cake$ is a feel good musical comedy that has the potential to connect with audiences like Little Miss Sunshine, another Sundance discovery, or The Full Monty. It’s hard to tell from the synopses which films are going to break out beyond their descriptions, but Patti Cake$ is totally deserving of its festival buzz and theatrical deal with Fox Searchlight.

Patti (Danielle Macdonald) is an aspiring rapper, but right now she works for a caterer. Her mom Barb (Bridget Everett) sings in a cover band at bars, but Patti gets along more with her Nana (Cathy Moriarty).

The inspirational underdog story ain’t broke, so Patti Cake$ doesn’t fix it. But just wanting to rap isn’t enough to qualify Patti for success, so it’s a good thing her raps are actually good. I’m not a rap fan myself, so if I can be engaged by her rhymes and the chords underneath, that’s something. Barb’s covers are more my jam, and Everett nails Heart’s “These Dreams.”

Surreal touches make Patti Cake$ more of a fantasy come to life than just a musical success story. Patti’s Matrix dreams and literally floating up to the sky show us that Patti Cake$ is going to take us into the feeling of music, not just the literal sounds of it.

Patti forms a group and has to build a group and put together an album. Meanwhile they still need a real job to earn money. When Patti gets an opportunity in front of a major rap artists, she has to decide whether to bet her future on it and risk her livelihood. These are important decisions for aspiring artists and I hope Patti Cake$ teaches them that it’s not as simple as “give your CD to a successful artist and he’ll discover you.”

The mother/daughter relationship between Patti and Barb is truly touching. It’s not a matter of “you don’t support me so I hate you.” It’s more complex than that and it’s meaningful. Everett is a movie star and Macdonald is a major discovery.

The Sundance discovery of Patti Cake$ will come to you thanks to Fox Searchlight. It will be a little different now that you’ve heard about it. The time to be the first to discover Patti Cake$ has passed, but writer/director Geramy Jasper’s story of ambition and healing lives up to the hype.

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