This year has proven itself as the year of the musical, as In The Heights and Dear Evan Hansen have brought a piece of Broadway to the big screen – though New York is not the only place that stage to screen fairytales are originally born, as London’s West End has given theater lovers another entry in that particular genre. Through director Jonathan Butterell’s adaptation of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, a show that was in turn based off of the documentary Jamie: Drag Queen at 16, this warm and colorful musical will most certainly hit at your heart, even while the overall product may seem a bit shallow when it comes to its identity politics.
High school student Jamie (Max Harwood) has arrived at a crucial age when the rest of his life seems laid out in front of him. In his personal case, that path leads to becoming a successful drag queen, which is kicked off with a birthday gift of sparkly red high heels he’s always wanted. While he’s supported by both his mother (Sarah Lancashire) and best friend (Lauren Patel,) Jamie still struggles with trying to figure out how he’s going to achieve his dream.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie sees its lead meeting with various obstacles through figures of authority, as both a teacher (Sharon Horgan) and his father (Ralph Ineson) struggle to deal with their viewpoints on Jamie’s aspirations. But with the help of a new mentor (Richard E. Grant), this young man just might get the inspiration he needs to keep going. With prom and a very big drag show looming in the distance, it's make or break for Jamie and those who stand in his corner; which leads to comforting familiarity, but also a sense that there's still some untapped promise in the story.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is another solid effort in a year full of musical delight.
As there have been quite a few musicals already in theaters in 2021, and a handful more to come, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is a squarely solid effort. Part of the overall success of the film comes from Jonathan Butterell and writer Tom MacRae having both developed the original state show. Reprising their respective roles in bringing what worked on stage to life in front of the camera, Butterell and MacRae’s knowledge of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie really help in introducing a new audience to this hit show.
Never feeling boxed in by the staging, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie takes advantage of being a cinematic experience through stunning visuals. Watching Max Harwood’s Jamie New grow and develop as a young drag queen runs into several obvious stumbling blocks that keep the story moving. Thanks to the director's choices, the visual canvas used to tell Jamie’s story is a dazzling compliment to the catchy songbook presented alongside it.
Max Harwood and Richard E. Grant turn in magnificent performances that anchor the emotional heart of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.
In an impressive feature film debut, newcomer Max Harwood commands the screen in the featured role of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. While the struggles that Jamie goes through in his quest to find himself are pretty familiar, Harwood never lets up in his portrayal of the young man at the heart of it all. This is only thrown into even sharper relief when Max Harwood’s Jamie meets his mentor Hugo Battersby, a.k.a. drag legend Loco Chanel (Richard E. Grant.)
Adding another fantastic credit to his resume, Grant’s performance as Hugo adds both much needed levity, and dramatic pathos. In a musical number crafted exclusively for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, we see Hugo relive both the glory days of the ‘80s drag scene, as well as the tragic losses of the AIDS crisis. Richard E. Grant does so much in this sequence that even though he’s mostly reacting to his immersive flashbacks in silence, he breaks your heart while doing so. Grant’s mentoring relationship with Max Harwood’s Jamie is undoubtedly one of the most effective emotional pillars to Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.
While it may not dive too deep into its subject matter, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie still explores issues of identity and acceptance in an entertaining and heartfelt way.
Identity and acceptance are themes that have been explored time and again in musicals and films like Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. There’s no new ground being broken in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, as pretty much everything you’d expect to happen absolutely does. While the final result is welcomed entertainment that embraces the full cinematic scope afforded, the overall story is very familiar. In a year that's chockful of musicals dedicated to being different, this one entertains more than it provokes questions.
The lack of novelty is more than made up for by the energy that Max Harwood and Richard E. Grant bring to the movie, as their performances are the best example of the heart this musical embodies. Vibrant imagery and a good soul are what make up the best parts of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, and the honest intent makes for a lovely, enjoyable experience. Even if you’re not a fan of musicals, or were hoping for a more soul baring storyline, you might just find yourself talking about Jamie as his story aims to please.
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