Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
For contemporary audiences, movie musicals tend to have a polarising effect. When the music swells, a character breaks into song, and everyone in the vicinity whips into tightly-choreographed dancing – a viewer is either enthralled, or immediately begins looking for a convenient receptacle into which to throw up.
It’s actually rather difficult not to be swept up in the exuberance of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. Cynicism doesn’t stand a chance, and melts away amid the onslaught of catchy songs and general optimism in the film adaptation of the stage musical, which was loosely based upon the 2011 BBC documentary: Jamie: Drag Queen at 16.
Jamie New (played with likeable naturalism by newcomer Max Harwood) is a gay 16-year-old living in Sheffield with his bottomless well of support of a mother, Margaret (Sarah Lancashire). Jamie dreams of becoming a drag queen, and is aided in his quest by local drag performer Hugo, AKA Loco Chanelle (a sublime, though underused Richard E Grant). Naturally, not everyone in Jamie’s life champions his ambitions, but this is remedied with a few songs.
The songs themselves are for the most part (rather essentially) memorable, layered, and lyrically interesting, striking the right balance of exposition and aspiration. There are a couple of duds thrown into the mix, which really shouldn’t have survived the editing process. The dialogue between the songs generally sparkles, eliciting regular chuckles, although it’s not immune from occasionally tottering into eye-rolling corniness with its meme-able sentiments.
Jamie himself can be prone to bouts of viciousness, which seem to be conjured into existence for no reason other than serving the plot by creating conflict, although this can be explained away by the fact that he is a teenager (and a drag queen to boot). As careers teacher Miss Hedge, Sharon Horgan elevates her underwritten role, even though her reasons for discouraging the boy’s dreams are never truly fleshed out.
As a plucky, defiant outsider who refuses to conform, Jamie’s story could be viewed as a spiritual sequel to Hairspray (or even Billy Elliot). The film isn’t perfect (the climax isn’t as climactic as it should be), and conflicts are resolved with convenient ease, but these blemishes are smashed into submission by the joyous, life-affirming momentum.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is released on Amazon Prime Video on 17th September 2021.
Watch the trailer for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie here: