Thanks to Sharmill Films for the chance to see Everybody’s Talking About Jamie before its Australian release. This is our review of the movie, but as usual, no matter what we say, we still recommend you to go see it at your local cinema because there is no better critic than yourself!
I’l be honest, musicals are not my go-to genre for entertainment. Seeing a burly butcher burst into song as he wraps up mutton for a harmonising customer, for example, is too feigned and irksome for me. However, this production of the BBC Three documentary Jamie: Drag Queen at 16, filmed at the West End’s Apollo Theatre for a cinema audience, is as bright, dazzling and toe-tapping as its star. John McCrea fills the boots – specifically, killer red heels – of the main character, Jamie New, marvellously. We begin with a classroom scene led by Miss Hedge, careers advisor, giving the students their job predictions after previous aptitude tests . Jamie, poring over glossy fashion magazines and daydreaming, is deemed fit to be a forklift driver. Seeing McCrea’s pale, lean body and delicate facial feaures, this is laughable. Secretly wishing to be a drag queen performer, Jamie confides to his closest friend, Pritti, his true desire. Pritti (Lucie Shorthouse), a Muslim girl not wanting to be a doctor as her family hoped, is as much on the periphery of societal expectations as her vivacious mate.
Along with Pritti, his mother, Margaret (Josie Walker) and her amiable bestie, Ray (Mina Anwar), Jamie has a contingent of fierce and funny warriors to help fight for his sense of personal identity. Miss Hedge and the school stud and bully, Dean (Luke Barker) attempt to thwart his yellow brick road to Oz, but Everybody’s Talking About Jamie certainly lacks the intense drama of the quintessentially troubled misfit of, for example, Ed Wood or Dustin Hoffman’s character in Midnight Cowboy. So the true captivation lies in the songs and the performances of them. With music by Dan Gillespie Sells, frontman and guitarist for The Feeling, with book and lyrics by Tom Macrae, whose award-winning opus includes episodes for Doctor Who, we are treated to catchy tunes, powerful ballads and numerous innuendos and catty remarks befitting any drag queen show.
Notable commendation for Jamie’s, Margaret’s and Pritti’s solo peformances. McCrea, Walker and Shorthouse certainly have the vocal range and wow factor for the West End. After an announcement that a film will be made of the stage version, it will be interesting to see if these primary characters are recast in their roles. Under the direction of Jonathan Butteral in the stage production, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is, like the legendary Loco Chanelle/ Hugo (Phil Nichol) slick, well-choreographed and dazzling. Desk tops becoming illuminated like a classic disco floor, so Jamie can strut his stuff as Jackson did in ‘Billie Jean’; or the back ‘wall’ an opaque lit screen, revealing the bands’ silhouettes during scene changes, cleverly combine to enhance the most bedazzled thing on stage – Jamie New.
Kudos to writer, Tom Macrae, for avoiding a Disneyfication of Jamie’s story. Dad finds his son’ “disgusting” and ugly, and isn’t present for landmark occasions such as his 16th birthday, his first drag show performance or his school prom. In that sense, there’s no happily-ever-after, but the success of Jamie’s drag show as Mimi Me and the love and support of his family and friends promises more rainbows than grey skies for this Sheffield lad . Coincidentally, this preview screened in one the most queer-friendly suburbs in Sydney, so the subject matter of a school boy wishing to sashay in the shadow of Ru Paul not shocking, in the least. However, for a feel-good film as uplifting as a good push-up bra, Everybody’s talking About Jamie certainly delivers. McCrea offers the right mix of Gucci, Gucci, ya, ya with gravitas to have the audience on his cheerleading team. Jamie’s got high hopes and heels to match – make way!
In Cinemas November 24