Inspired by true events (based on BBC Three‘s 2011 documentary Jamie: Drag Queen at 16), Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is the film adaptation of the award-winning hit West-End musical about Jamie New (Max Harwood), a teenager in a working class English town with a dream of life on stage.
While his classmates plan their livelihoods after graduation, Jamie contemplates revealing his secret career ambition as a fierce and proud drag queen. His best friend Pritti (Lauren Patel) and his loving mum (Sarah Lancashire) shower him with endless support while local drag legend Miss Loco Chanelle (Richard E. Grant) mentors him toward his debut stage performance. But it’s not all rainbows for Jamie as his unsupportive dad (Ralph Ineson), an uninspired career advisor (Sharon Horgan), and some ignorant school kids attempt to rain on his sensational aspirations. In rousing and colourful musical numbers, Jamie and his community inspire one another to be more accepting, and to see the value in facing adversity and stepping out of the darkness into the spotlight.
The movie reunites the stage show’s original creators: director Jonathan Butterell, writer and lyricist Tom MacRae, and composer Dan Gillespie Sells, who are all making their feature film debuts. Score is composed by Sells and Anne Dudley.
Mark Herbert, Peter Carlton and Arnon Milchan are producing, with Yariv Milchan, Michael Schaefer, Natalie Lehmann, Daniel Battsek, Ollie Madden, Peter Balm, Niall Shamma and Jes Wilkins serving as executive producers.
The transition of stage musicals to the screen can be a difficult process full of potential pitfalls (need we mention Tom Hooper‘s Cat-astrophic 2019 Cats adaption…..) however there has been a huge appetite for big screen musicals in recent years with the likes of The Greatest Showman and Bohemian Rhapsody seeing great success despite not being adapted from stage musicals.
Even rarer is the team that bought the musical to the stage also overseeing it’s transition to screen as is the case here. Although the films journey to the screen has not been without it’s troubles as the production was originally set to be distributed by 20th Century Fox prior to the Disney merger and subsequent covid-related delays meaning the film was eventually sold to Amazon for a VOD only release. The transition is certainly well handled for a debut feature; however we did feel the more surreal and theatrical moments/set pieces could have been made even bigger for the big screen.
Unsurprisingly the film removes several songs from the original score, including “The Legend of Loco Chanelle (and the Blood Red Dress)”; replaced by new song “This Was Me” which is described by director Jonathan Butterell as both a powerful dance anthem as well as a song of incredible significance and character development.
Performed by the lead singer of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Holly Johnson, the musical number features the character Loco Chanel (portrayed in the film by Richard E Grant) telling Jamie about the dark history of the HIV/AIDS crisis and the protests against the widely condemned Margaret Thatcher policies of Section 28. This is also a rare example of a musical adaption with the addition of a great new song which is sure to become a firm favourite (It has yet to be announced or confirmed whether “This Was Me” will cross over and appear in the stage musical in the future or whether it will remain exclusive to the film). We felt this addition to the story was extremely well handled and timely especially with the use of a younger ‘Loco’ (played by John McCrea, who originated the role of Jamie on the west-end) to tell her story.
Richard E Grant’s performance in the film is a real stand-out as he moves effortlessly from reserved yorkshire-man Hugo Battersby to his Drag Diva alter-ego Loco Channel in what is the actors first musical and first time performing in drag. His performance is full of heart and is at the centre of the story; and more than anything he just seems to be having a great time with it which really translates on-screen and his charecter also provides some of the most heartwarming and lighter moments. In many ways Hugo/Loco serves as a better ‘father figure’ to Jamie than his dad does here.
Sarah Lancashire also gives an excellent heartfelt performance as Jamie’s mum, showing what is is to love your child unconditionally even against the wishes of Jamie’s father (Ralph Ineson) and the wider community, especially Jamies teacher Miss Hedge (Sharon Morgan) who plays up to the villain/wicked stepmother role here…although in the end Jamie shall go to the ball.
Max Harwood gives a confident performance as Jamie which is grounded in the characters insecurities and self doubts rather than being overly flashy which will help relate his story to many viewers; supported admirably by his best friend Pritti (played by Lauren Patel).
The film is filled with easter egg cameos including many cast members from the stage musicals, the wider world of drag (such as Drag Race winner Bianca Del Rio) and even the real-life Jamie Campbell.
“A joyous LGBT coming of age story brought from stage to screen is a colourful delight with the incredibly moving performances of Max Harwood as Jamie and Richard E. Grant in full drag as Miss Loco Channel are a real standout in this full-of-heart story. This is also a rare example of a musical adaption with the addition of a great new song which is sure to become a firm favourite”
The film is released released worldwide on Amazon Prime on September 17th.