Staff Pick

Rapping Is a Superpower in Patti Cake$

by Rachel Wanat

Danielle Macdonald shines in her breakout role as a young woman from Jersey with dreams of hitting it big.


“You’ve got this. You’re a boss bitch.” — Killa P

Patricia Dombrowski, played by Danielle Macdonald, is just like any other young woman: She has crushes that go unrequited, smokes weed with the cool kids, and can’t scrape enough money together. But what sets her apart in her small Jersey town is her side hustle — Patricia freestyles rap songs. To say her music career is budding would be too kind. Her rap aspirations are high, but in the land of Springsteen, the odds are stacked against her.

Rapping is Patricia’s superpower. She uses it to protect herself, her family and to fight off the bad guys (i.e., less-talented bros). Her epic showdowns may happen in grimy parking lots and not faraway planets, but when Patricia morphs into “Killa P” for a non-stop rap battle, no one stands a chance.

You don’t have to be a fan of rap to appreciate this movie. By blending Patricia’s rap with her mother’s soulful bangers and classic Jersey sounds to evoke the incongruent harmony of Patricia’s life, director-screenwriter Geremy Jasper creates something more than just a song-style — it’s Killa P’s personal anthem.

Jasper’s masterful screenplay means no character in Patti Cake$ is one-note. Her best friend Jheri (newcomer Siddharth Dhananjay) provides moral support to Patricia in both her guises, dropping beats alongside her; even her ailing Nana (Cathy Moriarty) makes an appearance on her first track.

Bridget Everett stands out as Patricia’s mom, “Barb Wire,” a local singer who isn’t quite ready to give up the ghost. Barb’s diminished dreams are the perfect foil to Patricia’s desires. Presumably out of jealousy and misunderstanding, Barb can’t help but poke holes in Patricia’s fantasies, even if she wants her to succeed. Everett tugs at the heartstrings of anyone who’s witnessed a loved one set out for the impossible. Her performance as a woman who tables her own hopes to support her family is reason alone to watch the film.

There are no fairy tale coincidences in this film, just hard-won breaks. If you’re looking to be inspired, or need to unlock your inner “boss bitch,” Patti Cake$ is a must-see.