Patti Cake$: Underdog Rapper Movie Drops the Mic on Crushing Suburban Life

By Kim Hughes

Life-affirming, heart-warming, coming of age… Patti Cake$ is a magnet for clichés. But the Sundance hit wears that fact with grace, emerging as one of the year’s sweetest and most cheer-worthy titles. 


Patti bears the world on her shoulders. Socially and culturally disadvantaged and stuck in the dreary New Jersey of Bruce Springsteen A-sides, Patti pinballs between a dead-end bartending job and a stifling home life where her ill but loving grandmother serves as counterpoint to her emotionally crippled, failed-singer mother. 

But Patti dreams big, and along with her best friend and co-conspirator — a pharmacy clerk with a knack for beats — Patti envisions a life for herself across the bridges and tunnels in Manhattan where her battle-rap skills and disarmingly candid rhymes will take flight with other disenfranchised souls. Of course, workaday life has other ideas. 

Australian newcomer Danielle Macdonald does for the character of Patti what Gabourey Sidibe did for Precious: uses her decidedly non-Hollywood looks and size to conjure a character so believable we can practically smell her. Patti’s pain is our pain, her victories our victories. 

Even when the story follows oddball tangents (a preternaturally gifted outcast musician living and working in a handmade studio in the Jersey woods?!) we happily come along for the ride. 

Patti Cake$ is being positioned as a rapper movie and indeed, music is central to its narrative arc. But with his first-ever feature, video director Geremy Jasper has told a story about life where crummy jobs, toxic relatives, and plain lack of funds conspire to smother greater ambitions.

Jasper refuses easy outs that would transform his gritty movie into a fairy tale. Anyone can relate.  

Patti Cake$. Written and directed by Geremy Jasper. Starring Danielle Macdonald, Bridget Everett, Siddharth Dhananjay, Mamoudou Athie, and Cathy Moriarty. Opens Friday, August 25 in Toronto, August 30 in Vancouver, and wide September 8.

Kim Hughes Bio Image 2_small.jpg

An entertainment/lifestyle writer and editor of an exquisite vintage, Kim has written about film, music, books, food, wine, cosmetics and cars for the Toronto Star, NOW Magazine, Report on Business,, hmv, Salon, Elevate, CBC, Spafax and many other marquee properties. She lives in Toronto and is a proud volunteer with Annex Cat Rescue.