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Everybody's Talking About Jamie— a sar is born in this filmed adaptation of the London hit musical
By Elyse Sommer
Truth be told, I wasn't all that keen to watch yet another movie about a high school prom that might not happen becsuse of prejudice — but predictably will not only happen, but do so triumphantly. That said, long before Everybody's Talking About Jamie's titular star actually puts on that that forbidden dress, I was hooked by this adaptation's charm and vibrancy and Max Harwood's endearing performance. It's Harwood's very first time on stage or screen. While it's nice to see established stars, there's something special about seeing a star born. The rest of the actors are more experienced. They may not be big ticket sellers, but all give first-class performances.
While Tom MacRae, Dan Gillespie Sells and Jonathan Buttrell are again in charge of the screenplay, music and direction, they wisely chose to make changes best suited for film viewing rather than to slavishly copy the stage version. That meant eliminating some songs, adding a new one, staging the musical numbers to easily segue inside Jamie's mind. Despite changes in where and how scenes play out, the essential story is intact and likely to bring reminders of coming-of-age stories of outliers like Billy Elliott, and even adults pursuing a dream for different reasons, like the men in The Full Monty.
What's different about the Jamie everybody is talking about is different from most shows about gay youngsters, is that this Jaimie is very much out to his family and classmates. His habit of trying on his mother's dresses and shoes since he was a little boy has developed into a yearning to go to his prom in a dress and after graduation become a drag queen.
That goal would certainly be more exciting than the careers the high school's sour guidance counsellor Miss Hodges (Sharon Horgan) envisionss for him and his classmates. But .it's a goal supported by his mother Margaret (Sarah Lancashire), mom's friend Ray (Shobna Gulati), and his best friend Priti Pasha (Lauren Patel) who as a Muslim is also an outlier. News of his planned prom attire has the school's chief bully Dean Paxton (Samuel Bottomley) and his followers rachet up their mean-spirited treatment of Jamie, as well as the Priti.
Margaret poignantly sings about her unconditional love for Jamie in "He's My Boy." She abets his dressing up by gifting him with a pair of high-heeled red shoes for his sixteenth birthday. Stepping into those fancy shoes actually sends Jamie tripping dow his own yellow brick road, in pursuit of his drag queen dream.
Unlike Margaret, her homophobic husband Wayne (Ralph Ineson) says she got the son she wanted, but not he. A cruel incident between father and son scars the boy but not enough to keep him hoping for acceptance even after Wayne leaves the family and never even visits on his birthdays. The protective Margatet's sending cards and gifts in his name exacerbates Jamie's delusion that becoming a famous drag queen will turn rejection into admiration. All this intersperses the bouncy song and dance scenes with darker, more heartbreaking interactions that give thematic twists the stories of both Jamie and Margeret. She has to stop living through him. If he wants to be a drag queen, it has to be for the right reasons.
Stepping in to help Jamie activate his drag queen dream, and for the right reasons, is Hugo Battersby (Richard E. Grant) owner of a local drag clothing and memorabilia shop. Granted it's unlikely for a town like Sheffield to have a shop like this. But, hey, this is as much a fairy tale as a true story, and it works in the movie to depict the relationship between Jamie and the aging one-time diva named Loco Chanelle. Hugo sees Jamie as the new drag generation. The mentoring sessions in his shop enrich the show.
I'll let you see for yourself just how a all this works out. I'm hardly spoiling any surprises when I tell you to count on having several fraught situations conclude on a happy note. Even Miss Hodges and the bullying Dean Paxton tuurn out to not to be dyed-in-the-wool villains. Finally, if you tend to skip a movie's closing roll-out of credits, don't miss this one. It includes some wonderful special footage. Postscript: Lizzie Loveridge who's been CurtainUp's London critic almost since the beginning was still with us to review Everybody's Talking About Jamie when it ran in London. To read it click here. With CurtainUp no longer covering theater in faraway places as well as New York, Lizzie continues to report on the theatrical scene in London at https://theatrevibe.co.uk/
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Everybody's Talking Abut Jamie
Based on the strage musical of the same name
Directed by Jonathan Butterell
Screenplay by Tom MacRae
Music by Dan Gillespie Sells
Cast: Max Harwood, Sarah Lancashire, Lauren Patel, Shobna Gulati, Ralph Ineson, Adeel Akhtar, Samuel Bottomley, Sharon Horgan, Richard E. Grant, Cinematography Christopher Ross Edited by Mark Everson
Distributed by Amazon Studios world wide, (To rent or buy, free to Prime sibscribers_-, as of 17 September 2021 Running time: 1 hour and 51 minutes
, Reviewed by Elyse Sommer