Film Review: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
Director: Jonathan Butterell
Film4 Productions and Warp Films
In Theaters and Streaming on Amazon Prime 09.17
The genre of musicals has absolutely exploded this year, with a sheer number of major releases in the genre that hasn’t happened since the golden age. We still have tick, tick…Boom! and West Side Story coming before the end of the year. And while the hype at the moment is about a manchild (in every sense of the term) named Evan, there’s a good reason why Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.
An adaptation of a 2017 West End sensation, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is based on the true story of Jamie New (Max Harwood), a teenager from Sheffield in South Yorkshire, England, who dreams of a life on the stage. While his classmates plan their livelihoods after they leave school, Jamie contemplates revealing his secret career ambition to become a fierce and proud drag queen. His best friend, Pritti (Lauren Patel), and his loving mum (Sarah Lancashire) shower him with endless support, while local drag legend Miss Loco Chanelle (Richard E. Grant) mentors him toward his debut stage performance.
But Jamie also has to contend with an unsupportive father (Ralph Ineson, The Green Knight), an uninspired careers advisor (Sharon Horgan), and some ignorant school kids who attempt to rain on his sensational parade. In rousing and colorful musical numbers, Jamie and his community inspire one another to overcome prejudice, be more accepting, and to step out of the darkness into the spotlight.
Director Jonathan Butterell makes his feature debut with this film version of the show he originated onstage. This is a rare case where the creative team behind the stage version and the film version are one and the same. There’s something really special about seeing the credit “a film by Jonathan Butterell, Tom MacCrae and Dan Gillespie Sells,” giving equal credit to the director, writer/lyricist and the composer and recognizing that Everyone’s Talking About Jamie is a unique creative effort.
Butterell doesn’t have the flawless cinematic polish—or the budget—that Jon M. Chu had with In The Heights, but it’s a well-made film on any level, especially so since it’s coming from someone with so little film experience. The musical numbers are energetic, well-staged and shot and edited with finesse. Even the most theatrical performances are firmly grounded in reality.
Harwood makes an unforgettable impression in the title role, looking a tiny bit old for the part but pulling it off more convincingly than most ’80s “teens” did. He makes the character so utterly lovable that it’s nearly impossible to nitpick. Richard E. Grant is fabulous as the aging diva, a role that may earn him another Oscar nomination.
But it’s Lancashire as Magaret—the selfless and long-suffering mother of this boy whom she has never seen as anything but special in the purest sense of the word—who not only gets the most emotional mileage from her performance but makes her show-stopping solo not just the most incredible moment of this film but one of the best scenes in any movie this year. Patel, as Jamie (a “Muslim friend with a Hindi name”) is endearing beyond words. There’s a moment where she sits in her room singing by herself and leaves us to interpret the possible meanings of the lyrics. It exemplifies exactly why, as much I love literature, the pages and pages of detailed thoughts a character process in a book are not nearly as interesting to me as what a gifted actor can tell us, or leave ambiguous, with their faces.
Sharon Horgan (Together), is given the most difficult character as Jamie’s hard nosed teacher, Miss Hedge. A lesser actress or a bad choice made by the director could have thrown a monkey wrench into the works, but Horgan and Butterell have thought the character through without overthinking it.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is the kind of film that can win over all but the most stubborn detractors. As a rousing feel-good piece, it even gives CODA a bit of competition. There’s no question in my mind that Everybody’s Talking About Jamie will be embraced by many as a modern classic. I can all but guarantee that you’ll leave this gem of a movie clicking up your high heels and with a song in your heart. –Patrick Gibbs