Everybody's Talking About Jamie -B-
Rated PG-13, 115 minutes
The charming Amazon Prime musical "Everybody's Talking About Jamie" lacks originality and depth but more than makes up for it with a colorful, talented cast and some heartwarming messages of acceptance. The fun British production is based on a real U.K. teen whose story was adapted into an off-Broadway stage musical.
Jamie New (newcomer Max Harwood) is a 16-year-old and doesn't quite fit in. Instead of pursuing a "real" career, he dreams of becoming a drag queen. Uncertain about his future, Jamie knows one thing for sure: he is going to be a sensation. Supported by his loving mom Margaret (Sarah Lancashire), his mentor Hugo (Oscar-nominee Richard E. Grant) and his best friend Pritti (Lauren Patel), Jamie must overcome prejudice and a strained relationship with his father ("Harry Potter's" Ralph Ineson) to find his place in the spotlight.
"Everybody's Talking About Jamie" is cheerful and light, mostly surface-level stuff, but an agreeable way to spend a couple of hours. Directed by British stage director Jonathan Butterell and written by Tom McRae, it's based on the real story of U.K. teen Jamie Campbell, who became a drag queen at age 16 with the help of his supportive mother Margaret. His story was the subject of a British documentary, "Jamie: Drag Queen at 16" which was then adapted into a popular stage musical "Everybody's Talking About Jamie" by McRae and Dan Gillespie Sells.
Talented British newcomer Harwood is a delight as Jamie in his feature film debut, and veteran British character actress Lancanshire is wholly believable as his mother, and their warm chemistry grounds the film. It's Grant who is the most memorable here; he stole "How Can You Forgive Me?" from Melissa McCarthy, and he does the same as a Henry Higgins-type of mentor to Jamie. His scenes are the film's most compelling, including the song "This Was Me," that serves as a bittersweet tribute to Queen's Freddie Mercury and the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and early 90's (and is actually sung by Holly Johnson of Frankie Goes to Hollywood fame).
The charm and energy of the cast is what really sells "Jamie" even more than the music; while it makes perfect sense to turn Jamie's story into a musical, the music itself is also the film's biggest flaw. McRae's bland music is extremely likable yet largely unmemorable, without a strong showstopper or centerpiece to really anchor the narrative. The film would've really benefited from an additional original tune or two to liven things up and deepen its messages of inclusion and acceptance.
That said, "Everybody's Talking About Jamie" lacks the grit of say, "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" and has more in common with the airy, superficial fun of "RuPaul's Drag Race" (a cameo from RuPaul would've been the bomb here), which makes it unsurprising it'll be seen on the small screen too. Featuring an ultra-happy ending, it goes down easy and leaves you with a big smile that partners well with some popcorn like those red heels go with Jamie. Opening in selected theaters this week, it streams on Amazon Prime on September 17.