You have to credit “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” for boldness: This new British musical is not afraid to be predictable. Characters who are all archetypes leave no cliché unturned as they navigate plot turns we have seen a hundred times before.
And yet … Jonathan Butterell’s film, now streaming on Amazon, is a charmer, every bit as sunny, confident and ultimately compelling as Jamie himself.
A 16-year-old Sheffield gay boy who yearns to be a drag queen, Jamie (Max Harwood) faces familiar foes (a hostile dad, a school bully, a stern teacher) with the support of familiar allies (a loving mom, a nerdy bestie, a flamboyant mentor) as he sashays his way to not one but two cathartic epiphanies in highly judgmental environments — a drag show and prom night.
An adaptation of a hit West End show, itself based on the 2011 documentary “Jamie: Drag Queen at 16” (also available on Amazon), the movie joins a long British line of features about salt-of-the-earth folks, preferably from the gritty north, who overcome various odds to either follow their dream or simply be themselves — both are intertwined here, with identity and purpose melding together. “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” stands out from the pack thanks to Tom MacRae and Dan Gillespie Sells’s infernally catchy songs, which bear the influence of the exuberantly melodic pop music of the late 1990s and early 2000s. (British musical-theater composers have a much surer grasp of this particular idiom than their American brethren.)
The movie is also, as is often the case in this genre, boosted by an ace cast. Harwood is as charismatic as he needs to be, while also making Jamie’s occasional narcissism at least understandable. And the supporting actors are crucial in selling the boilerplate script. Richard E. Grant tackles the role of the gay father figure Hugo Battersby and his alter ego, the drag queen Loco Chanelle, with barely contained glee; that character gets an excellent new number that puts Jamie’s aspirations in historical and political context without being heavy-handed. Sarah Lancashire and Sharon Horgan are just as good in the less showy parts of Jamie’s mother and teacher. As ever, it takes a village to raise a queen.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
Rated PG-13 for language, bullying and sexual allusions. Running time: 1 hour 55 minutes. Watch on Amazon.
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