Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (2021)
Director: Jonathan Butterell
Screenwriter: Tom MacRae
Starring: Max Harwood, Sarah Lancashire, Lauren Patel, Richard E. Grant, Samuel Bottomley, Ralph Ineson
The movie musical is a genre with some of the most impressive staying power in all of cinema. Classics from Disney are beloved all across the world and the likes of Grease remain as popular as ever. Even throughout the genre’s so-called dour period of the late 2000s and early 2010s, in which the musicals that dared often yielded very little in box office returns, the movie musical persisted, its popularity exploding once again in 2015 with the worldwide appeal of “Hamilton” on Broadway and subsequent releases of critical darlings such as La La Land and box office juggernauts like The Greatest Showman on the big screen. In 2021, we have seen this upward trend in popularity continue, with the releases of studio musicals In the Heights and Vivo, as well as the star-studded Leos Carax and Sparks offering Annette – and yet it is Amazon Studios’ adaptation of stage musical “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” that could prove to be the very best of them all, its mix of glitz, glam and catchy tunes making for an unmissable movie musical even amongst the high quality of competition on offer in 2021.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is a movie based on a stage musical based on a real life, and tells the tale of Jamie New (Max Harwood) trying to make it as a drag queen. From the off we see the disparity between his reality and the fantasy world he wishes for himself, and as his passion grows so do this musical’s fantasy elements, with the songs – terrifically performed by an ever-talented ensemble cast – elevating some truly fantastic choreography, costume design and editing.
There is an arc central to Everybody’s Talking About Jamie between Jamie and his absent father (Ralph Ineson in a brilliant performance that shows his ability to bring humanity to even the most despicable characters) which keeps the picture grounded and gives the story its emotional backbone. At points it can be dealt with in a slightly melodramatic way, something which does lessen the impact of a few songs due to cheesy shots of Jamie staring out a window whilst seeing moments from his life in which his father was around, but it works to deepen the meaning of what is largely a heart-warming story the likes of which only musicals can offer.
Despite there being some differences between the original stage show and the movie – the exclusion of great songs such as “Limited Edition Prom Night Special” chief among them – the biggest reasons for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’s success on the screen are its similarities to its source material, and this is particularly due to making use of the show’s original creatives.
Stage musical director Jonathan Butterell, writer Tom MacRae and songwriter Dan Gillespie take up the same roles here, their combined work and passion for their original show seeping onto the big screen and being particularly noticeable in how well the characters, narrative strands and songs are each handled. For fans of the original stage musical, there are even cameos by prominent cast members such as John McCrea, the original Jamie.
This isn’t all about paying tribute to the original show however, and Everybody’s Talking About Jamie does what it can to make the most of its medium, even introducing new song “This Was Me” which uses Hugo and their history within the LGBTQIA+ community to portray the differences in perspectives within and towards the community from then and now.
Given its subject and medium, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie can feel a bit predictable at times, and this isn’t a film you can expect to offer anything revolutionary to musicals or wider cinema, but between its beat-perfect pacing and sheer energy Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is nothing short of an absolute ball.
An excellent adaptation of a beloved stage musical, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is fun, glamorous, and features some damn catchy tunes, making for one of the most uplifting movies of 2021 and arguably the best musical of the year.