Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie this year. It's an almost outrageously quirky comedy that shamelessly plays every crowd-pleasing card, but in ways we've never seen before. The offbeat characters are ridiculously loveable, the music infectious and the plot strong enough to have us on our feet cheering at the end.
In suburban New Jersey, Patti (Danielle Macdonald) is a chunky white girl who dreams of being a rapper like her idol O-Z (Sahr Ngaujah). She lives with her larger-than-life mother Barb (Bridgett Everett) and her cranky wheelchair-bound Nana (Cathy Moriarty), both of whom had musical ambitions of their own. Against all odds, she forms an act with her best pal Jheri (Siddharth Dhananjay), and they're understandably struggling to get noticed. Then she meets Basterd (Mamoudou Athie), a death-metal anarchist who joins her, Jheri and Nana in perhaps the nuttiest band of all time, PBNJ. The surprise is that their demo tape is actually very good. The question is whether they can win an upcoming competition organised by O-Z himself.
Writer-director Geremy Jasper shoots the film like a documentary, staying close to the characters as the real world rumbles along obliviously in the background. This draws the audience in, making it very easy to identify with these talented, likeable people who produce exhilarating music. Australian newcomer Macdonald is simply amazing, a magnetic force to reckon with. She brings Patti's yearning to life, as well as her snarky sense of humour, rapping skills and more than a little bitterness. She also has superb chemistry with all of her costars, each of whom develops a fully formed character who defies easy description. But then each person in this story deserves an entire film of his or her own.
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Davis Mitchell is very successful in what he does for a living, though he's not as productive when it comes to his marriage. He's an investment banker stuck in the same old daily routine and he tends not to ever think about anything else. However, he is forced to re-evaluate himself and the way he lives his life when his wife Julia dies suddenly in a car accident. His father-in-law and boss Phil doesn't think much of Davis, but encourages him to pick himself up off the ground and start appreciating the world around him. After deciding to file a complaint to a vending machine company, Davis ends up writing numerous letters about his personal struggles and confessions. When they are discovered by a woman named Karen whose struggling to overcome problems of her own, they start a friendship that will encourage Davis to take apart his life, and re-build.
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