If you’re a fan of musicals, you’ve probably heard of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie– the coming-of-age (and inspired by true events) West End production. Though the stage version has yet to make its way to the States, I was lucky enough to see a pro-shot recently and this new film adaptation really delivers the same big messages that the musical needs us all to hear.
Jamie New (portrayed by newcomer Max Harwood), is a sixteen-year-old English boy who lives in a small blue-collar town. Of course his dreams are anything but small- Jamie wants to be a drag queen! Many of his peers begin to accept the fate of staying in their small town, working in the factory or shops, and just getting by. But not Jamie. He wants something big and he wants his friends to realize they can shoot for the stars too.
The movie sees Jamie as he’s about to graduate from high school and plans to show everyone his true ambition as a performer- he’ll show up as his drag queen at prom! Jamie’s best friend and mother are there for him every step of the way, but his unsupportive (and absent) father, as well as his classmates and career teacher, laugh at him…all because he is being himself.
The movie is filled with big, musical numbers as Jamie tries to get his community to be there for one another and just be more accepting of people overall. The finale song, “(Out of the Darkness) A Place Where We Belong” is an encouraging anthem for all ages but I think it will resonate well with the teenage crowd. “Work of Art” is also a catchy song and the scene stands out in an ‘80s-esq music video nod.
Fans of the musical’s cast recording may be disappointed that some songs from the original production are not part of the movie version. “This Was Me”, though, is a great new song featuring Jamie’s mentor and dress shop owner Hugo Battersby (played by Richard E. Grant). For younger viewers who aren’t familiar with drag queens or the gay rights movement, this flashback sequence is bittersweet as we see the struggle that these men and women faced to be accepted (and unfortunately, the loss of friends to AIDS). The whole world was against Hugo and his friends, but they marched forward and kept fighting for the next generation. For Jamie.
“My Man, Your Boy” is a loving number between Jamie and his mother- she’ll always be his biggest fan. Sarah Lancashire portrays the character in the same perfectly supportive way she was seen in the stage version. If only we all could have a parent like Jamie’s who cheers for her son and believes in his identity and interests. “It Means Beautiful”, sung by Lauren Patel as Jamie’s best friend Pritti, is also a powerful song that tells listeners to go deeper than that surface and see people for everything that makes them unique. None of us are freaks! We’re not odd. We’re exactly who we are supposed to be!
As far as movie adaptations go, this one translates pretty well. The musical’s original creative team (Dan Gillespie Sells with music and a book/lyrics by Tom MacRae) were involved in bringing the story to the screen. Jonathan Butterell makes his feature directorial debut here but has plenty of experience as a choreographer and stage director on the West End, Broadway, and Off-Broadway. They did an incredible job adapting the story so that people across the globe have the opportunity to watch Jamie as he deals with teenage struggles, standing out and sticking to his goals. Of course, Max Hardwood, as Jamie, gives this performance and character his all, hopefully inspiring many viewers to continue to be who they are meant to be.
Not everyone can get across the pond to hear Jamie’s story, so please see this movie. Be true to yourself, your dreams, your identity. Standing proud. Don’t worry about what others think. Accept others for who they are and encourage everyone around you to do the same. Let’s build each other up. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Most importantly, as a parent watching this with their children, love them for who they are. This is a great movie to watch as a family.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie will be released on Amazon Prime Video on September 17th. And Philadelphia- if you want to see these flashy musical numbers on the big screen, catch the movie exclusively at PFS Bourse Theater starting September 10th.