I didn’t like 8 MILE. I say that because most people will unfairly compare PATTI CAKE$ to that 2002 film. Where PATTI CAKE$ has a solid lead in Danielle Macdonald, Eminem was far from a revelation and only seemed comfortable in the final 20 minutes of 8 MILE. That being said, Macdonald is able to run the gambit of emotions, feeling unnatural and nervous while rapping, but by the end of her journey, feeling comfortable and confident in her performance.
Patti (Macdonald) lives with her ailing grandmother and her alcoholic mother. She attempts to help pay the bills by bartending along with other side jobs, but in her free time, she raps with a friend. While sometimes living out her dreams in her head, she very rarely pursues realistic approaches to achieving those dreams. However, when she does, it usually ends with her being made fun of because of her weight or her opponent in a rap battle taking offense and breaking the golden rule of not hitting a woman.
While skeptical at first, I found myself warming up to Patti’s dilemmas. One night at an open mic, she becomes obsessed with a punk rock screamo anarchist who crafts unique beats when he’s not screaming into the microphone and turning the speed on his tracks to 11. Little does she know that tracking him down to his “home away from home” in downtrodden New Jersey, that she will lead herself and others down a path to the creation of the rap group, PBNJ.
There are a lot of moments that wouldn’t have worked if not for the grounded performance of Macdonald. Some moments should have been cheesy, because they were. But Macdonald seems to have this natural talent at conveying tepidness, while at the same time relaying that artistic confidence of some aspiring musicians. It’s a balancing act that showcases her character’s social anxiety, but willingness to suppress that emotional weakness to purse a lofty goal that may or may not be attainable.
Patti faces a few challenges, and not just the people putting her down or saying she’s not good enough, but those from within her own family dynamic. Her mother had her own failed musical aspirations, sometimes using her daughter as an outlet for those frustrations. It’s a performance by Bridget Everett, who’s better known for her sexually graphic stand-up comedy, that’s just as moving as Macdonald.
I would hesitate to say that PATTI CAKE$ is an underdog story because I think there’s a more impactful message in the script that goes farther than the simple notion of following your dreams. The film definitely teaches the importance of those in your life, not only of family members, but of the friends that you consider family. Led by Patti, PBNJ could make for formable opponent in the underground rap scene. And when led by MacDonald, the cast of PATTI CAKE$ could make even the most staunch critics of rap music crack a smile and cheer her on. PATTI CAKE$ may be the best independent film of 2017.
Video: (1080p HD Widescreen 1:85:1) I love the artistic approach to the film, sometimes going in and out of focus slightly with characters, but it’s balanced by a wonderful blu-ray presentation that brings everything in clearly.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) Being a movie with lots of music, staged and in the minds of the characters, there’s a delicate balancing act of audio that this movie nails perfectly.
A Slice of Cake$ (21:28): Unlike most behind-the-scenes features, this feels like an intimate and very personal look at the film’s creation, almost like a miniature documentary. It features a lot of great interviews and naturally flows throughout.
Audio Commentary by Director Geremy Jasper: Despite seeming shy and timid, Jasper manages to fill the entire commentary track time. While replicating a few facts a handful of times, Jasper does an admirable job discussing the film, from very tiny details to overarching themes in the movie.
Patti Season Music Video (2:55): A music video for on the fictional character’s songs. The beats are great and the lyrics are hit and miss.
Lyrics Video (1:33): A lyric video for some spoken word rap.
Promotional Featurettes (6:01): There are four promotional features that are only interesting if you haven’t seen the film. They offer no new insight.
Gallery: You can manually scroll through or hit autoplay to watch still images from the film.