Everybody’s Talking About Jamie: Film Review

Everybody's Talking About Jamie

Courtesy of Amazon

I really enjoyed Everybody’s Talking About Jamie when I saw the musical production on London’s West End so I was excited when a movie adaptation was announced – but this film fails to capture the magic of the stage show.

The film tells the story of Jamie New (Max Harwood), a gay 16-year-old who doesn’t fit in at his Sheffield school. He has always dreamed of being a drag queen and begins his pursuit of his drag career in earnest when his mum Margaret (Sarah Lancashire) gifts him glittery red stiletto heels for his birthday. With the help of local drag performer Hugo Battersby/Loco Chanelle (Richard E. Grant), Jamie discovers his look and his alter ego. As expected, he is faced with prejudice at school, but Jamie leans into his new persona and decides to wear a dress to the school’s prom.

My main issue with the stage show was that most of the songs were pretty forgettable – with the exception of the title tune – and that issue obviously still stands in the movie. With the stage production, there were plenty of bells and whistles, cool choreography and amazing singing to give the musical numbers some pizzazz and I didn’t feel like this was achieved here. With the exception of Work of Art (which had cool staging), the title song (nice choreography) and the ones based at the prom with most of the cast, the musical numbers fell flat and just didn’t have that spark. It feels like there’s less dancing in the film than the show, and besides Harwood, nobody has an incredible singing voice. They’re not terrible – they’re fine, passable – but it just means the numbers don’t hit like they should.

While I enjoyed the show, I can openly admit that it doesn’t have much substance to it – it’s just designed to be fun – so naturally, the film, which is very loyal to the show narratively-speaking, is the same, yet feels even more lightweight. I guess when you strip away the crowd-pleasing live performance aspect of it, you realise its flaws more. There are a few of the classic stock characters – such as Ralph Ineson as his estranged dad Wayne New, who is embarrassed by his son and wishes he’d had a proper lad and Samuel Bottomley as Dean Paxton, the school’s bully – and the message of proudly being your authentic self and accepting those who are different are not remotely subtle, but they are worthy pointers so who cares.

I couldn’t help but compare Harwood to John McCrea, who originated the role of Jamie on the stage. I really wish McCrea had done the film. Harwood did a great job – he can sing and dance (in towering heels) and I loved his look as Mimi Me (I wish we saw him in drag more!) but I loved McCrea. Elsewhere, Grant was perfectly cast as the world-weary Hugo/fabulous Loco Chanelle, while I also enjoyed Lauren Patel as Jamie’s best friend Pritti Pasha and Shobna Gulati as his mum’s best friend Ray (reprising her stage role).

I wish it wasn’t so, but Everybody’s Talking About Jamie never really rises above average and conventional. I enjoyed it and it’s an easy watch, but it never really excited me in the way musicals usually do and I’ve forgotten about most of it already.

On Amazon Prime Video from Friday 17th September

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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