The latest musical sensation to hit the streaming world is none other than Amazon Prime’s adaptation of the West End smash-hit, “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.” The coming-of-age movie musical follows 16-year-old Jamie New (Hollywood-newcomer Max Harwood), an English student in his final year of secondary school. Jamie yearns to leave the dust of his blue-collar hometown behind to pursue a life in the spotlight as a drag queen. While by no means the greatest musical or movie ever created, “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” is a joyful, uplifting two-hour adventure that highlights the importance of being yourself and celebrating who you are, no matter what anyone else thinks.
While drawing on similar themes as other movie musicals centered around LGBTQIA+ characters, “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” is unique in that the central plot does not revolve around Jamie coming out to his friends and family. Jamie’s gay identity is an understood aspect of the story, yet not the focus. The focus is on Jamie finding himself and “coming out” as a drag queen. The film is not a love story but a journey of self-discovery and finding your place in the world .
Jamie’s incredible support system truly makes this story unique. While there are certainly antagonists in the film who cannot accept him for who he is, namely his father, teacher and school bully, Jamie is certainly surrounded by love. Jamie’s mother Margaret (Sarah Lancashire), “Aunt” Ray (Shobna Gulati) and best friend Pritti (Lauren Patel) all embody what it means to support the people you love unconditionally. When Jamie wants nothing more than a pair of sparkly red heels for his 16th birthday, his mother skimps and saves to afford the one gift she knows will light up her son’s life. When Jamie tells them he wants to be a drag queen, they are first in line to see his show.
The music is not exactly the highlight of the production — the songs are good at best, but hardly memorable after the credits finish rolling. While I admit the titular song “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” is quite the toe-tapper, its placement in the middle of the film seemed out of place. Of course, this is a problem with most musicals adapted from the stage. While a stage production requires a hearty, upbeat song to welcome the audience back for the second act, movies do not have an intermission, so leaving big song-and-dance numbers like this one lost in the plot and forgotten by the end.
That being said, I in no way want to suggest that any of the songs are bad or sung badly. Instead, I feel they lack the same thrilling numbers you find in “Hamilton” or “Wicked.”
My favorite music number has to be “This Was Me,” a number written for the film after the stage musical’s song, “The Legend of Loco Chanelle,” was scrapped. While both songs introduce Jamie’s character to the world of drag through the eyes of Hugo Battersby (Richard E. Grant), the owner of the drag dress shop, the film’s song changes the narrative of Hugo’s backstory. While “The Legend of Loco Chanelle,” paints Hugo as someone wronged by an unfaithful lover, “This Was Me” showcases Hugo’s drag life as one plagued by the AIDS crisis of the late ‘80s and ‘90s that stole his lover away from him. Shown in a series of home videos, Jamie is introduced to the excitement and struggles of the LGBTQIA+ community who lived under Margaret Thatcher’s discriminative Section 28 law a generation ago. This bittersweet scene bonds Hugo and Jamie on a much deeper level than the stage musical ever could.
While the film is by no means a ground-breaking, earth-shattering, game-changing piece of cinematic history, its emergence into the streaming world emphasizes the importance of bringing these stories to the general public. While Jamie is surrounded by several supportive figures who give him the courage to rise above the challenges he is faced with, this is certainly not the case for all people like Jamie. By making characters like Jamie more common-place in Hollywood, perhaps we can all find the support we need to live life happily and unapologetically.
“Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” is now streaming on Amazon Prime.