The result of the bouncy musical “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” seems practically predestined, but it’s impossible not to be swept away by this alluring and contagious ode to aspiring drag queens and other young people struggling to fit in. .
At his old school in Sheffield, England, Jamie (Max Harwood, wonderful) dreams in class, but the 16-year-old is pretty focused on his aspirations: he aspires to be a drag queen. In short, we see his imagination at work, in the form of a catchy musical number in which he reigns fabulously on the catwalks.
This is just the start of many impressively choreographed interludes that speak of self-acceptance and finding your place in a world where being yourself isn’t always easy. While there are plenty of dazzles to satiate any fan of the musical genre, the most touching numbers are intimate in nature, when the characters sing from the heart.
Harwood sets the bar very high when he sings “The Wall in My Head”, gazing at the Sheffield landscape and yearning to overcome his personal obstacles, wherever this journey takes him. It’s a modern cousin of “Over the Rainbow,” a signature anthem of “The Wizard of Oz” that has spoken to LGBTQ audiences for generations.
“Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” reaches its climax with “This Was Me,” an astonishing sequence that pays homage to drag queens and LGBTQ people of the past. It’s a nod to the pioneers whose persistence and determination paved the way for the making of films like this.
Throughout the film, one can’t help but be struck by how little opposition to Jamie’s dream is. Her mother (Sarah Lancashire, adorable) is so supportive that she would immediately be inducted into the PFLAG Hall of Fame. There’s a bully at school, but Jamie pushes him away with a flick of his wrist. The main resistance is Jamie’s father, whose lack of acceptance is hurtful to Jamie, but this determined teenager is known not to be put off.
The main dramatic question is whether Jamie will go to the drag prom.
That’s not exactly the subject of the Shakespearean conflict, and it takes steam from the film, and even some of the numbers in the latter half. Luckily, there’s the presence of Richard E. Grant (sublime here) as drag star Loco Chanelle, who takes Jamie under his wing and shows this novice what a true drag queen is made of.
Most of the film rests on the light shoulders of the skillful Harwood, who can sing, dance and move beautifully at the same time. It’s easy to embrace, as it captures Jamie’s youthful idealism, energy, gentleness, the occasional self-centeredness, and longing for acceptance.
There’s no unpredictable moment in this family movie – except for a few nice frills towards the end – but for the most part, the musical is a good, exciting time, something worth discussing.
M“Everyone’s Talking About Jamie”: Musical. With Max Harwood, Richard E. Grant, Sarah Lancashire. Directed by Jonathan Butterell. (PG-13, 115 minutes.) Open in select theaters on Friday, September 10. Available to stream on Amazon Prime Video starting September 17.