Running time: 115 minutes. Rated PG-13 (thematic elements, strong language, and suggestive material.) On Amazon Prime.
Last year was a lesson in how difficult it is to make a good movie.
“In the Heights” spoiled us in June when director John M Chu succeeded in improving Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway performance. Then came Kay Cannon’s jukebox “Cinderella”, starring Camila Cabello, a rotting pumpkin. “Dear Evan Hansen,” next week, looks great but very brisk, unrecognizable.
Singing and talking is a difficult balance, as “everyone has been talking about Jamie” lately.
The undeniably sweet film, based on the brilliant West End music, fixes some (much better) show flaws, but loses its sense of humor and power when immersed in grief.
This is the real story of Jamie Campbell, known as Jamie New (Max Harwood) – a 16-year-old boy from Sheffield who dreams of becoming a big drag queen. Not a walk in the park in Northern England.
Jamie is determined, however, and with the help of his friend Priti (Lauren Patel), an old drag queen named Loco Chanel (Richard E. Grant) and his compatriot Amma Margaret (Sarah Lancashire), he threatens his zeal and tries to bring him down. Their No. 1 goal: go to prom in drag.
What gets the film even more proper is the moving relationship between Jamie and his mum. To protect her father who lives nearby but has abandoned the family, Margaret sends Jamie fake birthday cards and portrays her as a dead father. Whether you enjoy wigs and tassels or make your hair in supercuts, this is a painful real story for many.
Lancashire is the best part of the film, and turns you into a puddle with the ballad “He’s my boy”.
Even crying too badly is a film crash. It’s so nice and funny on stage. On screen, everyone is miserable for most of it. Harwood is talented, but only hits parts of the park with tears, such as the opening track “The Wall in My Head”, which describes a traumatic childhood experience.
Big glittering musical numbers, especially Don Gillespie’s infectious opening song “Don’t It Note”, aren’t fun enough to balance all the pain. They are supposed to be Jamie’s fantasies of a dream life, and yet as Jonathan Butarell directed, he also directed the stage version, which is hardly amazing.
One smart change involves Loco Chanel, who has a bad song on the stage show. In the ’80s, the work was cut from the moving sequence of Loco telling young Jamie about all the friends he lost from AIDS. Loco says drag is more powerful than just a wig and a frock.
You cry at the end, but “everyone is talking about Jamie” should have more energy than some of the soap songs sung in teenagers’ bedrooms. Unfortunately they didn’t bring the show to Broadway.