Everybody's Talking About Jamie
WHERE TO WATCH:
WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
Jamie New is a 16-year-old who doesn't quite fit in. Instead of pursuing a traditional career, he dreams of becoming a drag queen. Uncertain about his future, Jamie knows one thing for sure - he's going to be a sensation. Supported by his loving mother and amazing friends, Jamie overcomes discrimination and bullying to step out of the darkness - and into the spotlight.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
There's something to be said for the magic of the stage. That real-time element and reliance on practical effects turn any story into an almost fantastical showcase of craftsmanship. The audience is far more willing to suspend their disbelief than a film where computer graphics are limited by imagination and, sometimes, money. Not all stage productions work on the screen, and not all movies work on the stage - and unfortunately, Everybody's Talking About Jamie lost a lot of its award-winning sparkle in the transition to streaming.
In the directorial debut of the musical's stage director Jonathan Butterell, we follow a coming-of-age story based on the subject of a BBC documentary. Jamie is a gay teenager nearing the end of his school days and has secret plans of becoming a drag queen. Having to overcome a lot of prejudice in his community, he finds a mentor in a former drag queen and confidence from his best friend Pritti and his overly supportive mother.
But the real villain that needs to be overcome is the internalised hatred that Jamie struggles with every day, an unfortunately common trauma that faces the LGBTQI+ community, imposed on them by society and the rejection of loved ones. In this instance, the musical portrays those struggles in a sensitive and heartbreaking way, yet we are left with hope at the end when Jamie finally, and truly, accepts all parts of himself. The kind of acceptance that can only come from within. No matter how much the pain might be masked with flashy dance sequences and power ballads, it will never go away unless you take it on headfirst - and that's the beautiful message of Everybody's Talking About Jamie.
That being said, the film was unfortunately very inconsistent and haphazard with its pace, languishing in tedious scenes of nothing until we get to the fabulous ex-drag queen. Suddenly, life is injected into the film, and you get a brief glimpse of its sparkle before it is bogged down again by some lacklustre musical numbers. It's a bit of a gamble to hire the stage director as the film director, especially when they have never done film before, and it didn't always work out. A film audience has a short attention span compared to a stage audience, and the dragged out scenes needed to be a lot snappier to retain their attention. The power ballads had the biggest problems, and while I get that they were lingering on the long cuts for emotional effect, they lost power without the intimacy of the stage.
As for the cast, Max Harwood as Jamie was a great choice, charisma oozing from every pore, and he commands almost every scene he is in. Unfortunately, his brilliance was not supported by the rest, with the exception of the enigmatic Richard E. Grant. He dons drag for the first time in his career and absolutely nails everything in his role as an ageing queen. The tears rolled fast in his song that reflects his younger days in the height of the AIDS pandemic and the role drag played in advocating equal rights for LGBTQI+ people. It's a beautiful nod for how far we've come and how long the road still is ahead. Besides these two powerhouses, the rest of the cast was not as memorable, deliberate or not.
I doubt everybody would be talking about Jamie as it could get lost in the streaming machine. Despite its flaws as a musical, I still would recommend seeking it out for its message, especially if you or a loved one are facing similar struggles around self-acceptance. For that the movie does what it needs to do, and if ever I get the opportunity to see the production on stage, I might love it even more.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: