Eeveryone in the working class The English city of Sheffield talks about Jamie New (Max Harwood) because Jamie represents something new to Sheffield, but maybe not to the bigger, more sophisticated metropolitan areas. Jamie is a teenage drag queen, and Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is a heartwarming, at times cheesy musical, on its surprisingly easy path to acceptance in its seemingly old-fashioned and gated community. Although it was inspired by a true story (as depicted in the 2011 BBC documentary Jamie: Drag Queen at 16), just about everything in Jamie’s journey is predictable and obvious. But the emotions behind it are genuine, the characters endearing, and the songs just catchy enough for viewers to hum them absent-mindedly the next day.
The film version, which arrived on Amazon Prime on Friday, was created by the same team that made Everybody’s Talking About Jamie in a West End hit: director Jonathan Butterell, writer and lyricist Tom MacRae and composer Dan Gillespie Sells. But it is not only a translation by heart of a production. Butterell opens the action, both in range of locations and in visual style, and one of the most touching scenes features a new song written specifically for the film. Butterell preserves the spirit of the staging without limiting itself to it.
This spirit is familiar from a long line of films about unconventional art projects that rock the UK’s hard scrabble communities, The full Monty at Billy Elliot at Kinky Boots (which, it is not by chance, have been adapted into musicals). Like Billy Elliot himself, Jamie is a dreamer with aspirations that most people in his community don’t understand, especially his gruff, macho father (Ralph Ineson), who views Jamie as a failure as a son. Even Jamie’s best friend Pritti (Lauren Patel), a misfit classmate as the only Muslim in their high school, doesn’t quite agree with his goals at first.
But Pritti barely takes half a scene to unfold, and Jamie’s patient mother Margaret (Sarah Lancashire) is still a great support. The city as a whole is more progressive than a similar city might be in a movie from even 10 years ago, and although some school administrators don’t approve of Jamie’s plan to attend prom. in drag, they are quick to point out that they support the individual identity of all students. These changes in attitude are encouraging, but the bottom line is that the main opponent of Jamie’s efforts, teacher Miss Hedge (Sharon Horgan), isn’t much of an antagonist. It only raises the most superficial objections, and the stakes never seem particularly high.
Instead, the conflict is more internal and emotional, as Jamie faces his father’s disapproval (which Margaret partially kept from him) and discovers his own unique flirtatious identity. Her mentor on this path is a retired drag queen once known as Loco Chanelle (Richard E. Grant), who runs a costume shop. Hugo (as he’s known now) gets a showcase in the newly written song “This Was Me,” which serves as a sort of LGBTQ history lesson, returning at the height of the AIDS epidemic and protests for them. gay rights. It’s a heavy interlude in a mostly bubbly and light film, but it provides the perfect counterbalance to Jamie’s sometimes self-centered efforts.
Jamie’s casual selfishness is the closest the film comes to serious tension, but his feuds with Margaret and Pritti are brief and easy to resolve. This is not a film to watch for complex drama or incisive social commentary. It’s a celebration of openness and individuality, wrapped in numbers of colorful and exuberant pop music. It’s not something everyone will talk about for long, but it says enough about the moment. ??
EVERYBODY IS TALKING ABOUT JAMIE
Directed by Jonathan Butterell
With Max Harwood, Sarah Lancashire, Lauren Patel
Streaming on Amazon Prime