"We had to jump through hoops to get Cathy Moriarty (second from left in picture)," Patty Cake$ director Geremy Jasper (center) told us after a screening recently here in Washington, D.C. "I met her in Mexico. in a trailer for a film she was in. She's probably 20 years younger than the Nana role she plays in our film. "It's nice to meet you," she said in that amazing [gravelly] voice! So at that point we had our three generations of women in place and I felt good. She was kind and maternal to the young cast."
Usually the summer is a quiet time for good films, but there have been a few surprises this summer and at least four--including Patty Cake$--have been by first-time directors.
- Columbus, written and directed by Kogonada, introduces into a starring role an amazing Haley Lu Richardson, a suitably mellow John Cho and the town of Columbus, Ind. itself.
- Wind River wasn't as surprising--given that writer/director Taylor Sheridan had written the underrated Sicario and the justifiably praised Hell or High Water--but his directing skills proved up to the task.
- Director Amanda Lipitz of Step and her 3 young stars came to the Newseum in Washington to unveil the amazing documentary she put together up I-95 in Baltimore.
Jasper said that it took 28 days to shoot Patty Cake$. Danielle Macdonald (next to Jasper in photo), who accompanied Jasper to the Washington, D.C. premiere, said that she had to learn to rap. "When I read the script I thought [Geremy] was insane [for wanting me to do this]. But I related to the character." Once she accepted the part, Macdonald started "rapping in my closet, practicing all the time. Geremy would send me a different song every week--JayZ, Biggie, Kendrick. With Biggie, I felt kind of cool. [Rapper and producer] Kirk Knight did a screening in New York for us."
Jasper said that this was a personal story for him. "I was 23 living in parents' basement and bartending in a local dive. Nobody cared. They also played a song on the radio that we sang but we didn't go anywhere. We were suburban misfits." (When I told Jasper that I was also from New Jersey--he's from Hillsdale--and sometimes was a bit, um, low-key about it, he told me, "Don't ever be embarrassed about being from New Jersey!"
Speaking of which, Jasper said that Bruce Springsteen let them use his song--The Time That Never Was--to open the film. "We sent to his people and got the okay," said Jasper. I hope he sees the film. It's funny that Born to Run is the New Jersey anthem and it's about getting away."
Staying with the New Jersey theme, Columbus reminded me a little of Paterson the movie. Columbus the town has its amazing architecture and Paterson has its equally is-this-really-here? falls. Both films move slowly, have some inside jokes and dwell in the power of routines. Let's hope the rest of the year brings us some independent films as good as these.