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Jersey Girl

'Patti Cake$' has a big heart

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ME AND MY CREW  Danielle Macdonald rises above her hardluck roots in this feelgood movie.
  • ME AND MY CREW Danielle Macdonald rises above her hardluck roots in this feelgood movie.

The lovable Sundance hit comedy Patti Cake$ is a movie about unlikely stardom, sought by the obese 23-year-old Patti Dumbowski (Danielle Macdonald). She gets her multigenerational extended family together into the oddest group since the Bremen Town Musicians.

Patti lives with Grandma (the ever-ready Cathy Moriarity), a gravel-voiced wheelchair-rider, ready to join her late husband in the grave. The terrific Bridget Everett (Lady Dynamite) plays Patti's partly estranged mother, Barb, and is tremendous in her role as a bitter dream-crusher.

The fairy tale has a rough background: suburban Jersey at its skeeviest. Maybe the authenticity cited in reviews is the texture director Geremy Jasper got from the belching steam-stacks, old taverns and the cemetery where a vandal beheaded a stone cherub.

Patti's dreams are admirable, and we're charmed by the fact that this would-be star, sweating it out as a waitress and a bartender, has given herself more AKAs (Patti Cake$, Killa P . . .) than a Filipino vampire movie. Finally, we get to see her chops when she does a rap battle outside a gas station.

At a talent show, Patti sees the guy who'll catalyze her dreams, a young, melancholy transient who calls himself Basterd and whose real name is Bob (Mamoudou Athie). But Patti doesn't listen when Bob warns her of the rap god she worships, a famous MC called "Oz" whose posters cover her walls. Since Patti is a Dorothy waiting for her tornado, it's natural that Oz turns out to be a little jerk behind a curtain.

This is a sweet movie, but it'll gall viewers who believe that fighting the viciousness of the world with troubling art is a duty—it's not just a stage you get over, as if you were a rebellious kid who finally learned to clean up and be nice.

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