[Screen It]


(2021) (Max Harwood, Sarah Lancashire) (PG-13)

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Musical: A teen throws all caution to the wind, but must deal with the repercussions, as he follows his dream of becoming a drag queen.

It's the sixteenth birthday of Jamie New (MAX HARWOOD) who lives in Sheffield, England with his divorced mom, Margaret (SARAH LANCASHIRE). While Jamie's dad (RALPH INESON) doesn't show up to help him celebrate -- what with disowning the teen due to being gay, a choice Margaret has kept secret from their son -- Margaret's best friend, Ray (SHOBNA GULATI), helps them celebrate, including seeing his reaction to his gift of ruby red high heels.

They're aware of his desire to become a drag queen one day, something his best friend and classmate, Pritti Pasha (LAUREN PATEL), soon learns. But his flamboyant ways don't sit well with class bully, Dean Paxton (SAMUEL BOTTOMLEY), or their teacher, Miss Hedge (SHARON HORGAN), who advises her students not to dream too big regarding their future jobs. Undeterred, Jamie decides he's going to come out -- in full drag -- at the school prom, and thus visits a clothing store run by former drag queen, Hugo Battersby (RICHARD E. GRANT), who ends up as the teen's mentor.

As they prepare to get him ready for that, Jamie must contend with the reaction of others, all while hoping that his estranged father will be proud of him.

OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10

When it comes to adults and their advice to their or other kids about choosing a future vocation, there are two varieties. Some are supportive, either based on their own success or their desire to experience that vicariously through them. The others are those who once had similar dreams that, for any number of reasons, ended up dashed, and thus are being realists or sometimes simply the kind who don't want anyone else to succeed if they didn't.

Both types are present in "Everybody's Talking About Jamie," the new movie adaptation of the 2017 West End stage production that itself was based on the 2011 BBC Three television documentary "Jamie: Drag Queen at 16." That was about teenager Jamie Campbell who managed to deal with bullying through the confidence his drag alter-ego, Fifi la True, gave him and wanted to attend his prom as her, only to run into resistance from a teacher.

In a way, it's something of a kissing cousin to the musical "The Prom" (that revolved around a girl being forbidden to bring her girlfriend to her prom) in dealing with ignorance, bullying, and standing up for one's identity, all as told through singing and dancing.

Here, Jamie New (a fantastic Max Harwood) has just turned sixteen. While he celebrates at school with his best friend, Pritti (Lauren Patel, who's winning in the role), and then at home with his mom, Margaret (a good Sarah Lancashire), and her best friend, Ray (Shobna Gulati), his dad (Ralph Ineson), wants no part of that or him, what with being disgusted by the boy's effeminate manner.

The latter also hasn't escaped the attention of school bully, Dean (Samuel Bottomley), whose behavior toward Jamie and Pritti leaves the teen unwilling to truthfully answer the "what do you want to be when you grow up" question posed by their teacher, Miss Hedge (Sharon Horgan).

And that's to be a drag queen, something he assumes will draw derision from pretty much everyone. But Pritti encourages him to let his true self fly and he ends up finding a mentor in former drag queen Hugo (a terrifically flamboyant if bittersweet at times Richard E. Grant). All of which leads to his first on-stage performance as blond bombshell Mimi and then his desire to show up as her at the prom.

Directed with plenty of visual flair and energy by Jonathan Butterell who works from Tom MacRae's screenplay adaptation of the stage show, the film suffers a bit from the usual (but still bizarre to me) musical problem of the first act being much stronger than the second in terms of memorable songs.

The likes of the opening number, "Don't Even Know It" through "Wall in My Head," "Spotlight," "Work of Art" and the title song are terrific and overshadow - as a group - what follows in the film's second half. Not that those subsequent numbers are bad, it's just like so many musicals in the past where it's like the foot has been let off the cast and we witness more coasting than blasting forward.

Nonetheless, and overall, the film has plenty of heart to spare and comes off as an enjoyable, entertaining, and occasionally quite emotionally moving offering. And one that proves the power of being true to yourself and following your dream, and the importance of having support from friends and at least one parent. "Everybody's Taking About Jamie" rates as a 7 out of 10.

Reviewed September 8, 2021 / Posted September 10, 2021

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