Hot Take: It would be an insult to chalk this film up as an 8 Mile clone. Sure, Patti Cake$ is similar to 8 Mile but not the same. It’s better and one of the best of 2017.
Patti Cake$ is many things. It’s a coming-of-age tale, an underdog story and also fits in the nook that’s occupied by many a struggling musician trying to make it narrative that has come before it. Patti Cake$ also shares a lot of similarities to the semi-autobiographical 8 Mile featuring Eminem from 2002 which ripped up the box office at the time. Dubbed the female version of 8 Mile, Patti Cake$ didn’t have the same box office impact. While 8 Mile broke the $100 million mark domestically, Patti Cake$ didn’t even break $1 million during its brief summer run. It’s a shame, too. For me, it ranks 11th of all the films viewed in 2017.
What makes Patti Cake$ special (and different from 8 Mile) is it’s unknown star, Danielle Macdonald. Macdonald stars as Patricia “Patti Cake$” Dombrowski also known as Killa-P and less affectionately nicknamed Dumbo. Trying to make it out of the north Jersey suburbs, Patricia has dreams of making it big as a hip hop artist along with her best friend Jheri (Siddharth Dhananjay). Working side jobs and dealing with her alcoholic mother (Bridget Everett) and sickly grandmother (Cathy Moriarty), Patti Cake$ finds time to hang out with Jheri and work on their demo tape which they plan to use to try and make it big. Eventually, they befriend another wannabe artist, Basterd (Mamoudou Athie), and form the group PBNJ.
This low budget film from music video director Geremy Jasper has a ton of heart and while it’s sugary and sappy at times, it has enough grit to maintain some semblance of realism. The charismatic Macdonald does the heavy lifting though as you lose yourself in her quest and can’t help but root for her to succeed. She makes a number of bad choices along the way but that adds to the realism rather than detracts.
Having happened upon this film as a free option on a flight from Philadelphia to Las Vegas, I’m glad to have finally stumbled into watching Patti Cake$. Macdonald establishes herself as one to watch coming out of this role and this will be one that will make the “must see” list for streaming services as it becomes available. Poor timing, no box office and a relatively played out genre didn’t do this movie any favors but it is able to overcome much like its titular character and score big critically. While it’s no longer at theaters there are still plenty of other ways to catch this film and even if it requires going out of your way, Patti Cake$ is worth seeking out.
Low budget hidden gems are your forte.
Feel good, sappy stories aren’t.