Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
Based on the true story of a 16 year old who dreamt of being a drag queen, this musical lets its young star shine.
When the credits roll at the end of musical film Everybody’s Talking About Jamie there’s some vision of the documentary on which this film is based.
Briefly you’ll see 2011’s Jamie: Drag Queen at 16 with the real life Jamie New and his mother, which became the basis of a 2017 stage musical, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.
Knowing this film is based on the true experiences of a 16 year old boy from Sheffield makes this a richer experience. At such a young age, Jamie (Max Harwood) is determined to become a drag queen, much to the shock of his high school class.
But not so his supportive single mum Margaret (Sarah Lancashire) who happily gifts him red glitter high heels for his sweet 16th birthday. Margaret’s friend Ray (Shobna Gulati), who shares the adoration for this very individual boy, helps create a supportive environment for Jamie to express himself.
But school teacher Miss Hedge (Sharon Horgan), who tries to instil some realistic careers into the minds of her instagram / pop culture mad class, is less impressed by Jamie’s wild streak. Then there is class bully Dean (Samuel Bottomley) whose insults can’t quite match the witticisms of Jamie.
Thank heavens for best friend Pritti (Lauren Patel) who serves as confidante when Jamie plucks up the courage to visit former drag legend Miss Loco Chanelle / Hugo (Richard E. Grant) for his very first drag outfit. Hugo takes it upon himself to empower Jamie when he learns of the school prom -to become his official coming out.
“Stop waiting for permission to be you,” Pritti tells Jamie.
They are sentiments echoed by Hugo, who has a history of liberation and discrimination: “A drag queen is something to be feared.”
But Jamie has no idea what drag name to adopt…. big decision.
Throughout the film there are musical numbers as solos, duets and ensemble, theatrically staged in classrooms, school yards and Jamie’s drab Sheffield home. These are well-staged but no more memorable than a number from Glee, often lacking the ability to progress the plot.
But thankfully the performances are universally strong, with Max Harwood quite exceptional in the title role. His effervescence and commitment are simply captivating while Sarah Lancashire never disappoints. Richard E. Grant is clearly lapping up an overt role and points to Sharon Horgan for undertaking a crucial, if unsympathetic, role for the greater good.
Director Jonathan Butterell brings imagination to Tom MacRae’s screenplay which is sweet if not particularly surprising.
In the theatre I imagine this would be an uplifting night out. On screen it’s entertaining with its heart in the right place, but it would be great if Amazon Prime also offered the original Jamie: Drag Queen at 16.
Now screening on Amazon Prime Video.