Everyone's Talking About Jamie Review: Drag Queen Dreams

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie should be credited for its daring: this new British musical isn’t afraid to be predictable. The charact...


Everybody’s Talking About Jamie should be credited for its daring: this new British musical isn’t afraid to be predictable. The characters who are all archetypes leave no stone unturned as they navigate turns we’ve seen hundreds of times before.

And yet … Jonathan Butterell’s film, now streaming on Amazon, is a charmer, just as sunny, confident and ultimately convincing as Jamie himself.

A 16-year-old gay boy from Sheffield who aspires to be a drag queen, Jamie (Max Harwood) faces familiar enemies (a hostile father, a school bully, a stern teacher) with the support of familiar allies (a loving mother, nerdy bestie, flamboyant mentor) as he makes his way to not one but two cathartic epiphanies in very critical environments – a drag show and a prom night.

An adaptation of a hit West End show, itself based on the 2011 documentary “Jamie: Drag Queen at 16” (also available on Amazon), the film joins a long series of British feature films about the people of the salt of the earth, preferably from the north, who overcome various chances of following their dream or just being themselves – the two are linked here, with an identity and a purpose merging together. “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” stands out from the crowd thanks to the hellishly catchy songs of Tom MacRae and Dan Gillespie Sells, which carry the influence of the exuberant and melodic pop music of the late 1990s and early 2000s. British musical theater composers have a much more secure understanding of this particular idiom than their American brethren.)

The film is also, as is often the case in this genre, boosted by a cast of aces. Harwood is as charismatic as he needs to be, while at least making Jamie’s occasional narcissism understandable. And the supporting actors are crucial in selling the boilerplate script. Richard E. Grant approaches the role of homosexual father figure Hugo Battersby and his alter ego, drag queen Loco Chanelle, with barely contained joy; this character gets a great new number that puts Jamie’s aspirations into historical and political context without being brutal. Sarah Lancashire and Sharon Horgan are equally good at the less showy parts of Jamie’s mother and teacher. As always, it takes a village to raise a queen.

Everybody’s talking about Jamie
Rated PG-13 for language, bullying and sexual allusions. Duration: 1 hour 55 minutes. Look on Amazon.

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