Sometimes a flame can’t be put out. No matter how much you try to snuff it, it still shines ever brighter, lighting up the darkness that surrounds it. Such is the case in the story of 16-year-old Sheffield native Jamie New, the charismatic and brave protagonist of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. Premiering on Amazon Prime Video (and select theaters), the film adaptation based on the hit stage musical takes us on a journey with Jamie, an openly gay boy who dreams of becoming a famous drag queen.
As you might expect, this film is full of clichés, cheesy lines, and a whole lot of breakout song numbers. But at its core, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie provides a ton of charm and care whilst discussing a topic that even in the year 2021 can be seen as a bit of a touchy subject to navigate.
Jamie, portrayed by Max Harwood, realizes his dreams and goes for them, despite some rough obstacles in the form of heckling classmates and an absent father. His mother, portrayed by Sarah Lancashire, supports Jamie in his endeavors along with her best friend Ray (Shobna Gulati) and Jamie’s best friend Pritti (Lauren Patel).
For its first act, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie goes through all the usual stops. Empowering song numbers, class bullies, and a teacher who would rather use her position to fuel a power trip rather than brighten the minds of her young, impressionable students. It’s all pretty by-the-numbers until the film reaches its second, showstopping act.
Introduced at this point is Hugo Battersby, portrayed by Richard E. Grant. Grant’s character provides Jamie with a mentor (Battersby’s fierce drag persona, Loco Chanelle), and he also gives the film a deeper sense of emotion with its real-life connection to the AIDs epidemic and the damaging effect it had on the LGBTQ community dating back to the 70s and 80s.
In an incredibly well-directed sequence, Jamie and Hugo are transported via VHS “blue skidooing” into the world of Hugo’s past. This sequence, featuring the film’s only performed song not carried over from the stage play, delivers a magnified look into the plights of the LGBTQ and drag communities. And it reminds Jamie (and the audience) that while the life of a drag queen may seem all glitz and glamour, there is a much deeper meaning behind the existence of drag.
Jamie’s story rushes a bit through the second and third act, clearing up plot threads like Jamie’s official drag coming out and his battles against bullies and his father with a fairly quick pace. However, this doesn’t take away from the emotional strength of both the film’s message and its powerful ending. Harwood steals the show as Jamie, with charm, hope, and warranted narcissism emanating from the actor’s striking cheekbones.
Despite a message worn on the sleeves of the film, Harwood’s performance takes the themes to new heights, making up for a tone that doesn’t seem as energized all the way through. All in all, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie isn’t breaking new ground, but it is shining a light on a very important and often misunderstood culture. Using a bright and easily likable protagonist as the voice of the film’s main message.
That message, of course, is to feel comfortable in one’s own skin. Jamie, fully proud of his drag persona, learns through an inspiring and heartfelt journey that it is important to be just as proud of the face underneath the makeup.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is now playing in select theaters and is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video. Watch the full trailer here.