Arts

Everybody's Talking About Jamie offers 'almost two hours of unabashed pure joy'

Everybody's Talking About Jamie: Max Harwood as Jamie New
Damon Smith

EVERYBODY'S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE (12A, 115 mins) Musical/Drama/Comedy. Max Harwood, Sarah Lancashire, Richard E Grant, Lauren Patel, Shobna Gulati, Ralph Ineson, Adeel Akhtar, Sharon Horgan, Samuel Bottomley. Director: Jonathan Butterell.

Released: September 17 in selected cinemas and on Amazon Prime Video

LIFE'S a drag, in the best possible sense, in Everybody's Talking About Jamie, a defiantly feel-fabulous film version of the award-winning coming-of-age musical written by Tom MacRae with music courtesy of Dan Gillespie Sells from The Feeling.

Theatre director Jonathan Butterell makes his feature film debut with a faithful stage-to-screen adaptation, expanding the rousing song and dance numbers beyond the classrooms and hallways of a secondary school in Sheffield to follow the out and proud 16-year-old hero as he chases a dream of attending the end-of-year prom as his authentic self, in heels and a dress.

Jenny Popplewell's celebrated 2011 TV documentary Jamie: Drag Queen At 16 provides the heart-tugging narrative framework (footage of the real Jamie and his mother festoons the end credits) which MacRae's script dazzles with energetically choreographed dream sequences and wrenching ballads from the heart.

"This story really happened… then we added the singing and dancing," cheekily declares the film with its opening breath.

The stage version's stand-out songs resonate loud and clear in widescreen including The Wall In My Head, Don't Even Know It and He's My Boy, a heartfelt ballad about a mother's unconditional love for her son, which Sarah Lancashire delivers with tears welling in her eyes.

A new song, This Was Me, initiated by a scene-stealing Richard E Grant as drag queen Loco Chanelle but performed largely by Holly Johnson, lead singer of Frankie Goes To Hollywood, is a deeply moving memento mori to beautiful creatures lost to the Aids crisis.

Jamie New (Max Harwood) celebrates his 16th birthday with a gift of glittery red heels from his supportive mother, Margaret (Lancashire).

Classmate Dean Paxton (Samuel Bottomley) bullies Jamie but the youngster deflects barbs flanked by best friend Pritti Pasha (Lauren Patel) and escapes into song-and-dance fantasies full of razzle-dazzling, mop-wielding dinner ladies.

Careers adviser Miss Hedge (Sharon Horgan) laments Jamie's life goal of performing on stage.

Unfazed, the teenager recruits Hugo Battersby (Grant) aka drag doyenne Loco Chanelle as his mentor to step confidently into the spotlight.

Jamie's rise to stilettoed greatness is hampered by self-doubt and shame, sown by the boy's estranged homophobic father (Ralph Ineson), who cruelly confesses: "I wanted a son so badly, and I got you."

Powered to the hilt by Harwood's effervescent lead performance, Everybody's Talking About Jamie is almost two hours of unabashed pure joy, which preaches acceptance and self-love with the same sequinned fury as The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert and Kinky Boots.

Like its stage counterpart, there are dramatic lulls before Jamie's big reveal as Mimi Me but Butterell understands how to get toes tapping and he turns up the volume on the youthful exuberance.

People will be talking, glowingly, about his Jamie.

Rating: 3/5

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