Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
‘Making history and breaking laws, oh God how good that feels, we were heroes in high heels’
Being a teenager is hard: GCSEs, family drama, prom. However, Jamie has even more to contend with. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie follows its title character’s rise to drag queen stardom. Faced with the intolerance of the world around him, Jamie must overcome all the odds to fulfill his ambition, which is (almost) as high as his stilettos.
The film, an adaptation of the hit West End musical of the same name, has a dedicated cult following. It will no doubt garner new enthusiasts now that it is on film. Fans of the initial production will not be disappointed as the dazzling musical numbers reach impressive new heights.
Jamie is faced with two major obstacles. The first are the more ordinary sources of teenage angst: the absent parent, the pressure to pursue a ‘traditional career,’ and the preparation for prom. The second is far more extraordinary. Despite the pressure of bullies and cynics, we witness the conception of his drag persona ‘Mimi Me’. This more unusual plot points adds both emotional depth and a touch of glitz and glamour to the familiar coming-of-age tale.
Scenes are bookmarked by riotous pop-inspired musical numbers performed by troupes of school uniform wearing students. While the songs are choreographed to eye catching perfection, the exposition scenes in-between songs don’t always translate smoothly from the staged production. Aspects of the original physical comedy are lost. Similarly, characters occasionally slip into cliched, predictable monologues rather than the humanising and well written exchanges from the musical. Despite that, the film manages to promote its message with admirable fearlessness; don’t be afraid to pursue who you want to be.
The highlight of the film is the relationship between mentor Queen ‘Loco Chanelle’ (Richard Grant in another iconic performance) and Jamie (newcomer Max Greenwood). From this comes a breath-taking homage to the mid 80s queer activists fighting amidst the AIDS crisis. The scene is interspersed with actual footage from this era and is played to a rousing synth driven track written specifically for the film. Another of the songs is This Was Me. A bittersweet anthem about the progress achieved by activists during this era, the song tastefully acknowledges the devastating scale of loss and sacrifice that accompanied it. Clearly a subject of renewed cultural interest, the way the film foregrounds young queer characters learning about the legacy of the AIDS crisis is similar to the Channel 4 series It’s a Sin which aired earlier this year.
The fleeting moments of beauty and tragedy captured in these scenes, highlights the true legacy of queer activists both politically and culturally. The sequence also grounds Jamie’s story in a wider context of LGBTQ+ history and emphasises the importance of supportive spaces for young queer people.
Part cinematic successor to Billy Elliot, part homage to the vibrant UK drag culture, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is a touching and important film which may never have existed on a mainstream platform until all too recently. Although the story feels at times like a fever-dream conceived in the Disney lab of happy-ever-after, the end credit footage of the real life Jamie, on who the film is based on, reminds the audience that this audacious, larger-than-life tale is rooted in reality and stands as a glittering testament to self-belief.