High school is a confusing time for any teen. It’s that awkward phase where you are simultaneously learning about all the things that make you special and unique while also being filled with uncertainty about them. For most of us, this probably involved taste in music or some hobby you were embarrassed about having, but a big part of coming of age is realizing that expressing one’s individuality is far more important than being seen as part of the crowd.
While this tried and true theme is at the heart of many films, it gets a fresh and modern update in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, the new musical coming out on Amazon on September 10. This movie, which is an adaptation of a musical inspired by a documentary, tells the story of Jamie New (Max Harwood), a gay 16-year-old teen living in Sheffield, England, which is a far cry from the hip and cosmopolitan London. Like many LGBTQ+ teens, Jamie faces crude insults and bullying but is generally self-confident due in no small part to his fully supportive and loving mother, Margaret (Sarah Lancashire).
Despite being open about his sexuality, Jamie still has a secret dream that he hides from most of the world: he wants to be a drag queen (or, as he puts it, “I want to be a boy who sometimes wants to be a girl”). One day, after receiving a flashy pair of red high heels from his mother on his birthday, Jamie decides to confide in his best friend, Pritti (Lauren Pasha), a quiet and bookish girl who is a social outsider in her own rite.
With Pritti’s support, Jamie begins to bring his true self into the real world. Jamie ends up at a clothing store for drag queens, where he meets Hugo and his glamorous alter ego, the “warrior queen” Loco Chanelle (Richard Grant). After learning of Jamie’s dream, Hugo is instantly eager to mentor Jamie and provide a community and context for his budding identity.
Filled with newfound gusto and enthusiasm, Jamie makes the bold and terrifying decision to attend his prom dressed as a drag queen. As this plan becomes widely known, a number of people, including Jamie’s own father, rise up in opposition and try to force him to conform to the world’s expectations. Jamie’s own sense of self evolves as prom draws ever closer, and he has to make brave decisions as he struggles to find the best way to be true to himself.
The first thing that struck me about Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is the quality of the musical numbers. The singing and choreography in these scenes mostly live up to their West End origins while also adding elements that can’t be done on a stage, such as large crowds and artistic camera cuts. The songs are spaced out appropriately, preventing the story from being plagued by the constant narrative breaks that detract from some musicals. However, the production on a couple of these performances falls a little flat when compared to the others.
The most impressive aspect of the movie is the balance with which it treats the story of a genderqueer protagonist. Many narratives dealing with LGBTQ+ characters tend to be heavily focused on either an over-the-top celebration of those characters’ individuality or cataloging of the various injustices and prejudiced behaviors that they must face on a daily basis. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie aims to split the difference and capture some of both aspects while remaining optimistic. This, as I understand it, is a much more complete and accurate portrayal of the LGBTQ+ community.
Jamie faces occasional ignorance and hatred, but he also finds plenty of people who offer him unflinching support. He’s expressive and vibrant but also deals with the self-doubt every teen experiences. His Gen Z impression of drag culture is based on Instagram influencers, but he is also made to understand the struggles people like him faced in the days before Ru Paul Charles brought drag into living rooms all across the world. The overall mood is positive throughout, and most of the obstacles Jamie faces involve his own internal struggles rather than fearing external violence or non-acceptance. The depth here is very refreshing.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is also a rejuvenating take on the teen coming-of-age story. Eschewing entirely any plot lines that revolve around superficial and often fleeting teenage romance, it instead offers a rigorous and thorough look at personal identity through Jamie’s quest to fully express himself. The result is thought-provoking and decidedly more optimistic than the teen-centric media of my youth, like American Pie or Eurotrip.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is a beautifully executed musical adaptation that does a great job of representing an under-represented demographic. The lively characters and upbeat tone result in a wonderful feel-good story for all audiences.
About Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
Synopsis: Feature film adaptation of the musical about a teenager from Sheffield, England who wants to be a drag queen.
Director: Jonathan Butterell
Writers: Tom MacRae, Dan Gillespie Sells
Stars: Max Harwood, Lauren Patel, Richard E. Grant
Runtime: 1 Hour, 55 Minutes
My name is Kevin and I have been writing about movies with GNN since January 2020. Some of my favorite films are Inception, Django Unchained, American Hustle, and Gladiator. I graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Arizona State University in May 2018. I am currently self-employed in e-commerce and live in Tempe, Arizona. In my free time, you can probably find me slinging spells in Magic: the Gathering or dusting off a retro video game console (Super Nintendo is my favorite).