MFF: ‘Patti Cake$’ shows New Jersey dreaming
Saturday, May 6, 1 p.m.
Wellmont Theater, 5 Seymour St.
By GWEN OREL
You know how a great Broadway show has you humming a tune as you leave?
Geremy Jasper’s new movie “Patti Cake$,” the fiction centerpiece of this year’s Montclair Film Festival, might have you humming a rap tune.
The movie follows Patricia “Killa P” Dombrowski (Danielle MacDonald), a heavyset girl from New Jersey, who dreams of being a rapper and making the big break for the city. In her dreams, Patti is a rap goddess, blessed by rap superstar “O-Z.”
In reality, she’s a bartender who lives with her hard-drinking mom, and her sickly Nana. But her talent is real: her best friend Jheri, who works at a drugstore, rhymes with her, and then they meet goth-metal recluse Basterd. Soon the three team up.
Stars are trying to be born.
Patti is Jasper’s alter ego, he said. “I’m from New Jersey. I have that underdog Jersey angst that’s a part of being there, a mix of pride and a chip on your shoulder.” He wrote and directed the film.
Patti lives in a “mashup of Lodi, Linden, Elizabeth, Paramus.” Jasper even shot some scenes in Hillsdale, his home town. “In the music world, from New Jersey, you’re in the shadow of the center of the creative universe. Like Sarah Palin, you can see it from your house. It felt like the moon, growing up. It seemed three thousand million miles away. I felt like a country bumpkin in a weird way.”
The movie draws on Jasper’s own life for some details, including a stint living in his family’s home, trying to make it as an artist. “I couldn’t get arrested musically for like a decade,” Jasper said with a laugh.
“They say ‘write what you know.’ It’s definitely a world that I know.” Jasper was even a heavyset kid. “It’s funny. The way you are when you are 7, 8, 9, kind of sticks with you. It’s a mix between how I felt physically around that time and how I related, and never feeling like I was going to get out of my hometown.”
Jasper’s father was a high school girls’ basketball coach, so in a way, the director said, “I was raised by adolescent Jersey young women. They were my heroes growing up. In my town and in my high school, the girls team was always better than the boys team.
Like Barb, Patti’s mother (Bridget Everett), Jasper’s mom was “a strong, tough woman, with very Patti qualities. She’s not going to take s--- from anybody.” Like Barb, she was a singer, though not an alcoholic.
For the movie, he wrote 25 songs, including the song Barb sings on her record made in the ’80s.
“Bringing those actors in and recording before starting shooting was a cool way to get to know the characters better,” he said.
There will be a soundtrack, so viewers can keep humming.
Jasper said, “It’s like a dream.”