Recent additions to the movie musical genre have looked bleak, spanning from tired revivals of old classics to condensed versions of beloved Broadway hits. Amazon Studios’ film “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie,” however, is a welcome departure from the profit-oriented, regurgitation of old stories that movie musicals have recently become. Following the eponymous play’s successful run on the West End, “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” is an imaginative story of resilience and creativity with a few bumps in the road.
Set in Sheffield, England, the story follows 16-year-old Jamie New (Max Harwood) as he explores his deepest desire — to become a drag queen. On this journey, he reckons with the opposing opinions of his distant father Wayne (Ralph Ineson), strict teacher Miss Hedge (Sharon Horgan) and other classmates who seek to derail his ambition, particularly the school bully Dean Paxton (Samuel Bottomley). Yet, Jamie finds confidence and comfort in the company of those that cheer him on relentlessly— most notably his mother (Sarah Lancashire), Jamie’s mentor Hugo (Richard E. Grant), and his best friend Pritti (Lauren Patel).
In its best moments, “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” preserves exactly what was successful about its theatrical predecessor, coming across more like a professionally shot version of the stage show rather than a film adaptation. With an enticing soundtrack paired with nonstop, electric choreography, it’s hard to resist the urge to get up and dance along to the movie’s most upbeat numbers. In contrast, the emotional ballads are excellently written and performed, even if they aren’t as memorable as the fast-paced songs.
While there’s little realism in this movie, the story is successfully whimsical enough to absorb the viewer not to question it. Harwood has the vocal prowess and heart to carry Jamie’s wide range of emotions throughout the film. If audiences surrender themselves to the flashy, joyous ridiculousness that this movie embraces, there’s no doubt they’ll enjoy “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.”
While its star character shines, the film’s supporting characters remain underdeveloped and often left to stereotypes. This half-baked characterization is especially evident through Pritti, whose only care in the whole movie is her ambition to become a doctor. Though she and Jamie bond over their mutual status as the misunderstood outcasts, Pritti is depicted with several overused, trite stereotypes for Muslim female characters, and she’s given no depth, personality or character growth beyond Jamie’s storyline.
Character development is a recurrent struggle for the film as Miss Hedge is also incredibly underutilized. Her song “Work of Art” is poorly translated to the screen, and since the number marks a major plot point, the narrative becomes hard to follow, compounded by the excessive, distracting editing. The story is frustratingly fixated on Jamie and his ambitions, leaving the other characters hung out to dry. These secondary narratives seldom see resolution and rarely develop outside of what Jamie needs, becoming one-dimensional and flat.
In addition to the narrative issues, the film’s pacing loses its rhythm. The first half of the movie is undeniably fresh and engaging, but as it progresses, the audience is affronted by new, intense emotions, and the film leaves its viewers utterly worn out the rest of the way through. “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” stretches much too long, sorely missing the intermission that’s usual in the stage format and gives the audience the opportunity to take a breather before the emotionally taxing moments.
“Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” is a heart-wrenching, tear-jerking, loveable story of queer resilience. Even though it’s not the most polished, the film affirms the value in giving creative stories the opportunity to come to the screen, heralding a brighter future for cinematic adaptations of musicals.