“Everybody’s Talking About Jamie”, which was released on Amazon Prime a few weeks ago, is as energetic and flamboyant as demanded while also being as sweet and poignant as required. Based on the stage musical of the same which was in turn adapted from the 2011 British television documentary “Jamie: Drag Queen at 16”, the movie constantly delights and amuses us as cheerfully bouncing along with its gay adolescent hero, and it also surprises and touches us via genuinely sincere and poignant moments coming from its hero and several other characters around him.
The story of the movie mainly revolves around the emotional journey and growth of a 16-year-old boy named Jamie New (Max Harwood), and the opening part showing his daily life reminds us of how many sexual minority kids like him in UK and many other western countries have been allowed to show and express more of themselves and their sexuality these days. Besides his caring mother Margaret (Sarah Lanchshire), many people in his neighborhood in Sheffield, South Yorkshire have accepted him for years, and so have most of the students in his school, though he is ridiculed by some meathead bully from time to time.
Anyway, Jamie decides to pursue his longtime aspiration more as having his 16th birthday and reflecting more on what he wants to be after his graduation. Much more emboldened by the very special birthday present from his mother, he becomes really serious about being a drag queen entertainer someday, so he does some active research on the drag queen business in Sheffield, and, what do you know, it turns out that there is actually a fashion store for drag queen entertainers in the city.
That fashion store in question has been run by an old former drag queen named Hugo Battersby (Richard E. Grant), who gladly becomes Jamie’s mentor after he discerns Jamie’s need and aspiration as talking a bit with Jamie. Besides teaching Jamie on how bold, confident, and fearless he should be during his first public drag queen performance, Hugo, who was once a raging drag queen during the 1980-90s, also shows Jamie those wild old days of him and many fellow sexual minority people, and we are poignantly reminded of how much people like them fought and struggled really hard for freedom and acceptance during that very eventful period. Although things were quite daunting for them due to the AIDS epidemic as well as the prejudice and ignorance of others, there were indeed social advances for them in the end, and it goes without saying that the freedom and acceptance enjoyed by Jamie and many other sexual minority kids at present come from their courageous efforts during that time.
Jamie initially wants to make a modest public debut as a new drag queen in the town, but, of course, the situation becomes more complicated than before because he unintentionally reveals his plan in front of his classmates. While his best friend Pritti Pasha (Lauren Patel), a smart and intelligent girl who wants to be a doctor someday, stands by him as usual, he has to face more prejudice from his school bullies, and there is also a private matter involved with his father, who does not want to accept or recognize his gay son at all while mostly occupied with living a new life with his second wife.
Filled with a number of stylish and flamboyant songs including “This Was Me” and “Work of Art”, the first half of the movie culminates to its highpoint as accompanied with “Over the Top”, and then the second half of the movie switches upon a plain and introspective mode via a series of sincere and earnest musical scenes. While Pritti comes to reveal more of herself via “It Means Beautiful”, Jamie and his mother become more honest and affectionate to each other than before as singing “My Man, Your Boy” together, and the movie even shows some understanding on a few supporting characters opposing Jamie’s lifestyle in one way or another.
The movie sometimes loses its narrative pacing as hurriedly hopping from one song after another, but that remains to be a minor flaw thanks to the fairly good qualities of the songs written by Dan Gillespie Sells and Tom MacRae, and the movie is also held together well by the engaging lead performance from newcomer Max Harwood. Besides ably handling many song and dance moments assigned to him, Harwood did a convincing job of presenting Jamie’s human qualities behind his showy attitude and appearance, and we consequently come to cheer for Jamie while observing how much he is matured in the end before making his first step into adulthood.
In case of the main cast members surrounding Harwood, they hold each own spot around him well. While Sarah Lancashire, Lauren Patel, and Shobna Gulati have each own moment to shine, Richard E. Grant, who has been more notable thanks to his recent Oscar-nominated supporting turn in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” (2018), is dependable as usual, and he certainly steals the show whenever he enters the screen.
Directed by Jonathan Butterell, “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” succeeds in winning my heart thanks to not only its enjoyable song and dance scenes but also its solid performances to be savored, and that means a lot considering that I am a discreet and introverted gay dude quite different from Jamie in many aspects. Yes, I did observe his story from the distance at first, but I eventually came to have more empathy and understanding on his need to express himself freely, and that is more than enough for recommending this charming musical film.