Danielle Macdonald plays Patti in the new movie Patti Cake$, hitting limited theaters this week. Patti is stuck in the lower-class suburbs of New Jersey but aspires to fame and fortune as a rapper. That goal is met with resistance by her mother Barb (Bridget Everett) but her friends, including Jheri (Siddharth Dhananjay), think Patti has a future.
So the movie follows her struggling against the assumptions of others and the belief that she can succeed and rise above her working-class background. The movie comes from writer/director Geremy Jasper, making his feature debut after a career to date in commercials and music videos.
The first poster is pretty simple, just a photo of Patti leaning up against the hood of a car that has a vanity license plate for her. She’s decked out and is clearly throwing attitude with the smile on her face but that’s about all the character development or explanation we get. There’s no copy, just a few quotes of praise from early reviews, to flesh out or add context to what we’re seeing.
A second poster pulls its image from one of the scenes that would become a focal point of the marketing, that of Patti and her friend Jheri hanging out around her car trading rhymes. Two big positive quotes are at the top, just above icons showing it screened at Sundance and Cannes.
We meet Patti in the first trailer as she glides down a pharmacy store aisle. Her aspirations as a rapper are in stark contrast to the drudgery of her real life, which is full of mundane jobs and people who don’t believe in her. She gets a shot to record a rap album and with the support of a few friends begins to achieve her dream of rapping.
It’s…it’s really good. There are a lot of bad directions this could have gone in but it keeps the focus on Patti and her desire to do what she wants with her life without compromises. That’s an inspirational story we can all relate to. Thankfully, the “overweight white girl trying to rap” premise isn’t played for laughs anywhere in this spot, otherwise the emotional impact would be undercut immediately.
Online and Social
The movie’s official website takes a while to load, a process you can track as the title is filled in. Once it finishes a “Lyric Video” plays that takes a scene between Patti and her friend Jheri trading freestyle lyrics. Close that and the landing page features the same photo of Patti that was shown on the first poster alongside critic quotes and links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.
The first section of content is “Cast,” which offers photos from the movie with each actor along with a brief quote from them about the story. “Filmmakers” does the same for director Jasper.
“Story” has a brief synopsis of the story, “Photos” has a half-dozen stills from the movie and “Videos” has both the official trailer and the Lyric Video that opened the site.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
What amounted to an extended TV spot can be seen here. We get the basic idea of Patti’s journey to become a famous rapper and some of the hurdles she faces while on that path. Mostly it’s selling the attitude of the story, which there’s plenty of.
More traditional TV spots like this one summed up the story pretty well and explained what it is the audience can expect from the movie.
Media and Publicity
The movie’s Sundance screening lead to Macdonald being pegged as a breakout star after years of false-starts in Hollywood. It was eventually picked up by Fox Searchlight after garnering impressively positive word-of-mouth.
Macdonald was the subject of a bit of press from Sundance through release as she continued to be hailed as the breakout performance in the movie. Those interviews and features talked about how she prepared for the role and more.
There was also a profile of Jaspar where he talked about not only what drove him to make the movie but also the experience of having it debut at Sundance and the bidding war that followed. Another interview with him had him talking about similar topics as well as the quick and dirty way he had to shoot the film because of budget and other factors.
As should be clear from everything that’s been laid out above, the focus of the campaign is on Macdonald, who has been the subject of much of the press coverage and is the biggest part of the posters and trailers. That makes sense considering how much she was mentioned as such an up-and-coming star at Sundance and in the press since then, but it also means there isn’t that identifiable and recognizable face in the campaign for the audience to latch on to.
Instead the primary appeal is the story, which is sold here as, “overweight working class woman goes against type to achieve fame as a rap star.” That might sound crass, but that’s the basest description of the message being sent here. The campaign relies on the audience being intrigued by the visual disconnect between the type of person we’re watching and the activities she’s engaged in. If you can get on board with that then you might be interested in seeing the movie, Fox Searchlight is hoping.