I like to think that I’m a musical theatre geek but, the truth is, I don’t actually watch a lot of musical theatre. I’m not just talking about during the Pandemic but in general. I know the classics but there are so many modern examples that I know very little about. Aside from Hamilton, I’ve not kept up with contemporary musicals. Add that to the fact that I’d not watched the BBC3 documentary Jamie: Drag Queen at 16 and you can see that I wasn’t really rushing to watch the film adaptation of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. But, I also think it should be celebrated for putting drag culture further into the public domain and, you know, Richard E Grant is everything. So, I settled down this weekend to watch it.
It might only have been 10 years ago but society has moved on a fair bit since the BBC documentary about Jamie Campbell, a teenager from Bishop Auckland. I won’t go so far as to say that drag queens are now part of the mainstream but thanks to things like RuPaul’s Drag Race they are, at least, more familiar these days. Back in 2011, the idea of a man wearing a dress was still something to fear and not talk about. It was something to make straight men cower rather than celebrate.
The major reason that teenage Jamie had so many issues with his school prom. Instead of being allowed to be himself, Jamie was initially refused entry to the dance. It was only after the reaction from his fellow pupils and their parents that Jamie’s head of year let him in. I want to say that it’s hard to believe that it ever happened but I can totally see why it did. I can even see it still being a issue in many parts of the UK. Gender stereotypes are certainly alive and well in modern Britain. Plus, as we’ve seen from the rise in anti-trans rhetoric, we’re still not an LGBTQ+ tolerant nation.
Still, it’s a story that embraces and celebrates individuality and being true to yourself. It also shows that there is no one definition of what it is to be masculine. Does that mean that the story gets a little saccharine at times? Yeah but I’m okay with it. Now, I can’t say for sure whether this was as good as seeing the show on the stage but, I imagine, it won’t be the same. I mean, it never is. There’s a spirit and an energy that comes with a live performance that doesn’t translate onto film. However, I won’t say this is a bad film.
It’s got a good cast and the musical numbers are all well done. I think Richard E Grant is fabulous in his role as Jamie’s drag queen mentor and Max Harwood is an amazing lead. It’s a strong British cast with nods to it’s theatre origins. I’m sure I’m not alone in loving the brief cameo from Bianca Del Rio. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is a lot of fun and is a wonderfully uplifting film. Do I feel like it’s missing something special? Possibly. Even though I’ve never seen the stage version, I can’t help but feel that this film doesn’t fully capture the brilliance of Jamie and his story. But it’s certainly joyous.