Geremy Jasper anxiously searched the audience for some kind of reaction — a laugh, a smile, anything — but the scene was grim. The director from Hillsdale turned to his wife and whispered that he feared his movie was bombing.
It was the Sundance Film Festival premiere of his first feature film, “Patti Cake$,” a movie about an aspiring rapper from New Jersey. Yet as the big musical scenes began to kick in, a wave of relief washed over the nervous director. His hands shook.
“It was like a rock concert,” he says of the Utah crowd. “The audience erupted.”
A standing ovation greeted Danielle Macdonald, the actress who plays Patti, as she walked onstage after the screening. Variety called Jasper’s creation “a cross between Dawn Weiner and Precious,” other characters first championed at the festival.
“What happened is bigger than anything I could dream,” says Jasper, 41, whose film, a coming-of-age movie in the spirit of Eminem’s “8 Mile,” with a more intimate, Jersey-flavored sense of humor, opens on August 18 in New York and New Jersey.
Since Sundance, the accolades have been plentiful: In March, Manohla Dargis of The New York Times, in highlighting Jasper as a director to watch, said while Patti’s story sounded like “the ultimate bad Sundance movie,” it proved to be “an unambiguous joy.” In May, “Patti Cake$” received a standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival and a warm reception at the Montclair Film Festival back home in Jersey.
It’s only his first feature film, but Jasper is being talked about with the kind of enthusiasm that propelled another local, Princeton’s Damien Chazelle, who this year became the youngest person to win the Oscar for best director, for “La La Land.” Critics have heaped praise on Macdonald, the film’s star, who hails from Australia but plays Patricia Dombrowski, aka Killa…