There’s this thing when musicians make movies, or movie-makers become musicians. They decide they might as well combine their artistic pursuits and score their own films. It’s usually innocuous enough, you get people like Tom Tykwer who generally keep a hold of their material and make some real pretty music to go with it. On the other hand, ego gets involved: think Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive (a film I totally love, not hating on it) in which Tom Hiddleston’s character is said to be creating the most revolutionary, exciting music of the moment. It just happens that it’s the same music being made by Jim’s band.
You gotta have a lot of self confidence to pull that move, not everyone’s Prince, nobody can be that good at anything. Patti Cake$ is written and directed by Geremy Jasper, and features music by Geremy Jasper and Jason Binnick. I think the movie’s greatest strength comes with their realisation that the music in it ain’t all that great. The film needs it, and in the moment it fucking works, but then I downloaded the soundtrack coming outta the cinema and realised, there’s like only two tracks on there I really have interest in.
It’s good enough sure, and comes to life on the screen because the cast are legit amazing and perform it super super lovingly and charmingly and well. At least our writer/director/composer has the sense of mind not to make these characters heroes or prodigies or saviours. They’re making legit the sorta music you would produce if you were a kid hoping to break into the music scene. Alive and passionate and furious, but at the same time a little bit empty. Bouncing and hustling without that much that’s new, revolutionary or profound. Kinda like this movie.
Alright that’s real dismissive and speaks to none of the movie’s life or joy but, all I’m saying is that if you were to overlay this script and the script to, say School of Rock, you’d find a lot to compare. You know what though, I fucking love School of Rock and this film plays at just about the same level. It begins with, and repeatedly returns throughout the run time to, Patti’s dreams, her meeting her idol, face to face, on the stage together at last. They’re so goofy, all neon and green and with this crappy CGI, so earnest and absolutely perfect.
The film don’t hold her ambitions with any cynicism, and the band of misfits she assembles to reach them are allowed; Jheri (Siddharth Dhananjay) her longtime friend, goofball, slacker, vocalist; Basterd (Mamoudou Athie) their runaway, outsider, socially-awkward producer; and Nana (Cathy Moriarty) their elderly dispenser of moral support and chainsmoker’s wisdom. It’s one of those movies, where the lost find their home in art together.
Like with all the best of them it don’t dab on the haters either. Patti’s mother (Bridget Everett) plays a more hardcode tragic version of the dismissive naysayers we saw in School of Rock (y’know Sarah Silverman, Joan Cusack). The film gives us an in to her though, we get to see who this woman is, and sure it’s not a surprise when it comes but what affects is that she is never presented as pitiable. Why diminish her, or any of them like that? We all just doing our best.
Speaking of the best: Danielle Macdonald, the Killer-P, Patti Cake$ herself, fucking owns this joint. It’s the sorta performance that is so mercurial you worry that it’s gonna stick to her for the next couple of years. Hard to express how winning she is in this feature. I guess the best of it is that you get a lot of her working. She tends bar, she caters events, she picks up anything she can get to support her career and her family. Macdonald brings it here too, she’s giving so much texture to these nothing scenes where the whole weight of the film resting on her. She just runs with it.
Not to say the rest of the cast don’t shine, I mean, I have a total crush on Siddharth Dhananjay now, but this girl is in every scene. And I don’t wanna get preoccupied with her body because the character sure ain’t and neither is the film, but we don’t see too many heroes like this. Or if you do then they gotta be all down on themselves the whole time. Patti just loves herself, and if other people don’t then that on them. They don’t get to make her own their feelings, there this rap battle that turns up in the trailer with some sad music, in the feature it don’t end how that trailer leads to to believe. It’s great.
So is the costuming from Miyako Bellizzi. It’s not the sort of work that wins any awards, but it’s immaculate. Sure, most of it looks like it was a thrown together thrift shop haul purchased for a couple hundred bucks, but dear god if there wasn’t like one costume every scene that I weren’t totally jealous of.
I guess my biggest problem with it is that you should properly end the film cheering. That’s what the film wants, it’s leading you right up to that point. Then, last moments, it fumbles. Rushes its way to a conclusion when all you wanna be doing is spending a couple more minutes with the characters. Tell you what, cut two minutes outta that bit at the end of act two where everyone depressed for a bit, dedicate that time to the ending.
For now, well it’s a slightly lesser School of Rock. And Danielle Macdonald deserves all the fame of Jack Black.
Patti Cake$ is currently screening in UK cinemas.