Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is the film adaptation of the smash-hit West End musical that has taken theatres by storm since its debut in 2017. Originally scheduled for a big-screen release with Fox, like many this film version suffered due to COVID and is now set to air on Amazon Prime instead. Pretty good timing, or just simply brilliant marketing, as the theatre show has recently begun its UK tour after being postponed last year because of the pandemic. I finally got to see the show on opening night in Manchester recently and it was brilliant. I’m very pleased to say that this film adaptation does not disappoint.
Set in Sheffield, the film follows Jamie (Max Harwood) a 16-year-old who dreams of being a drag queen. He wants to be a performer, no matter what his careers teacher Miss Hedge (Sharon Horgan) says. He’s supported by his mum Margaret (Sarah Lancashire), who buys him a pair of glittery red high heels for his 16th, and her out-going and promiscuous best friend Ray (Shobna Gulati). He never sees his dad (Ralph Ineson), but still receives messages of encouragement and gifts passed on by his mum.
At school, Jamie shows his best friend Pritti (Lauren Patel) his new shoes. She has her own issues in the school and yet despite her initial reservations about Jamie’s aspirations to be a drag queen, accompanies him to a drag supply store called House of Loco to buy a dress for prom. The store is run by Hugo Battersby (Richard E. Grant), who also used to be known as renowned drag queen Loco Chanelle. He soon takes Jamie under his wing and gets him a trial run at a drag show called Legs Eleven. Jamie’s debut as alter ego Mimi Me is a success and he becomes a celebrity with his school friends, but continued run-ins with bully Dean (Samuel Bottomley), Miss Hedge and his continuingly absent father put his dreams of attending prom in drag in jeopardy.
Directed by Jonathan Butterell and written by Tom Macrae and Dan Gillespie Sells, with the latter two responsible for the lyrics and music for the stage show, it’s perhaps not unsurprising that this film adaptation sticks very close to the original material. Featuring at least half of the songs from the show and with jokes and dialogue lifted straight from the stage too, the film is very well executed. It’s like Billy Elliott but with drag queens, great choreography, catchy musical numbers and a fun yet heart-warming storyline. There may be some songs missing that featured in the original show, but aside from The Legend of Loco Chanelle, these aren’t missed and this particular song is replaced by an absolutely banging 80’s style original song This Was Me, which despite being upbeat is played over clips that heartbreakingly illustrate the AIDS epidemic. And yes, the plot may be a bit clichéd and predictable, but show me a musical that isn’t and at least this is one that is actually based on a true story.
The cast is pretty much spot on. Sarah Lancashire and Ralph Ineson are well suited in their respective roles as Jamie’s parents, Lauren Patel is perfect as best friend Pritti and Shobna Gulati reprising the role of Ray that she’s currently performing in the theatre tour is genius. Max Harwood, however, completely steals the show as Jamie. He looks and acts the part, and is incredibly engaging in a role that requires unwavering confidence. I didn’t think anyone could match up to Layton Williams who’s currently starring as Jamie in the tour, but Harwood excels. My one slight criticism of the casting is that while I adore Richard E. Grant and especially loved seeing him in drag, I do wonder if it might have been a good opportunity to cast a real drag queen. Bianca Del Rio (Season 6 winner of Ru Paul’s Drag Race) has previously starred in the West End as Hugo and while I did love her cameo here, having her or someone similar starring properly would’ve been brilliant.
The script is incredibly clever and full of humour and witty remarks, although it is missing a large amount of the humour shown in the stage show. It probably doesn’t help that the show is fresh in my mind, but it was packed full of almost constant humour and I wish there could’ve been more in this film. Most notably affected by this is Ray, who was constantly cracking jokes in the show but is sadly side-lined a little here, which is a shame. I’m guessing a lot of this is due to some quips having limited appeal across the pond as I doubt jokes about Aldi and the pound shop would go down well outside of the UK, but more of this would’ve made this film even more enjoyable.
I may be a little biased reviewing this; I’m northern and I love feel-good musicals, British films and drag queens. No doubt Everybody’s Talking About Jamie won’t appeal to everyone, but for me, this was a hugely enjoyable, heart-warming sing-a-long that is almost faultless.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie will be available to stream on Amazon Prime from September 17th
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A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!