B+ Musical comedy
Written by Tom MacRae & Dan Gillespie Sells
Have you noticed that with Hamilton, In the Heights, The Prom (unfortunately overlooked), and Spielberg’s upcoming remake of West Side Story, musicals seem to be a thing, again.
Now we’ve got another one, this time from Britain, and if it’s no masterpiece, it’s a funny, entertaining, and good-hearted tale. It’s called Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. The Jamie of the title is 16 and wants to become a drag queen (a truly talented and young Max Harwood). This is not something he (or I should say she) hides from her parents. In an early scene, her mother gives Jamie a birthday present: a pair of red glitter shoes that suggest that Dorothy, home from Oz, is all grown up.
This is not set in cosmopolitan London, but in rural Sheffield. But that doesn’t mean that the students and teachers are all white or straight. Jamie’s best friend – or really, her only friend – is a Muslim girl named Pritti who wears a hijab (played by Lauren Patel). Others feel strange around Jamie, but not Pritti. She’s also one of the best students in the class.
Jamie also finds a surrogate father in an older drag queen played by Richard E. Grant. He’s aged out of the drag scene, and now he finds himself happy to teach a young man the tricks of the trade.
Most of the songs, at least in the first half, are done as daydreams. Real life goes away, and everything is exciting and beautiful. Then the song ends and everything goes back to reality. The songs and dances aren’t all that exceptional. About halfway through, Jamie gives her first performance, and suddenly, the songs and choreography improve. I have no idea why. Not all the songs are big numbers. Pritti sings a soft, heartfelt song to Jamie.
Almost every high school movie has a bully – especially if there are LGBTQ issues involved. But while that character is in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, he’s different. The young actor Samuel Bottomley shows us, mostly through his eyes, the fear and uncertainty behind the bluster.
It’s no big surprise, but the film climaxes at the prom.
The film starts by telling us that this is a true story. Then it tells us that the songs and dances weren’t actually true. I always assume that if actors are reciting dialog, it is not a true story, even if it’s based on one. But I can easily believe that this film’s basic story really happened. It happens over and over in schools throughout the world. The music and comedy makes the movie more entertaining.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie opens at the Century 9 Theatre opens Friday, September 10.