Geremy Jasper’s fictional story of plus-sized would-be New Jersey rapper Patricia Dombrowski, a.k.a. Killa P, a.k.a. Patti Cake$, is a clichéd crowd-pleaser that’s so energetic, the “been-there, seen-that” cynic in me surrendered to its gritty simplicity.
Whilst it’ll never be accused of originality, it does boast a big heart, a superb young cast, a cracking musical soundtrack that left me wanting more, and a stand-out lead performance by Australia’s Danielle Macdonald as Patti. Maligned for her size, looked down on for her working-class roots, dismissed as an overweight loser by all but her outsider friends, Patti is a bold breath of fresh underdog air in a cinematic landscape that often seems full of perfect people, with flawless physiques and idealised lives.
I was engaged and entertained by the story of Patti and her kooky crew, as they form PB&J, their band of outsider misfits, which even finds room for Patti’s ailing grandma, making for one hilarious oddball rap group photoshoot. Far from a schmaltzy fairy tale, it’s a story encompassing family dysfunction, poverty, and negative body image — sentimental yet never soppy, inspirational rather than insipid, poignant without feeling phoney.
Think Rocky with rap, or 8 Mile with a smile and a poor, white, female rapper. Patti Cake$ delivers a big, bold, anti-body-shaming, never-judge-a-book-by-its-cover, morality tale about family, friendship, and young people born on the wrong side of the tracks daring to dream big.