From 8 Mile to Hustle & Flow, hip-hop dramas often hinge on a performance that makes (or breaks) the MC at the story’s center. Patti Cake$ is no different: The underdog drama, which stars Australian newcomer Danielle Macdonald and was a smash at the Sundance Film Festival, pivots on a scene in which aspiring rapper Patricia Dombrowski (aka Patti Cake$) takes the stage at a talent showcase to perform the anthem “Tough Love.” In the film, Cake$ is a scrappy rhymer from the New Jersey suburbs who imagines herself as a superstar, despite being mocked as “Dumbo” by her detractors; “Tough Love” was written by director Geremy Jasper, a former musician and music video director, and performed by Macdonald following two years of rapping lessons. Before the film opens wide on Aug. 18, Macdonald and Jasper dissect the climactic sequence filmed at Brooklyn’s Masonic Temple in May 2016.
Macdonald: It was very intimidating to me, because it was my first time performing [the rap] -- and for a crowd of 200 people. I knew that was where I had to be good. It was a lot of pressure, and I felt like I wasn’t getting it at first. And then we started shooting it. I did it once, and I was like, “OK! I did it. I can do it again.” After that first time, it got a lot easier.