EVERYBODY’S TALKING ABOUT JAIMIE (2021) – Review
Well, just about all the public schools should be back in operation, or at least still mixing “in-person” and “at-home virtual” learning by now. So, what better time for a breezy musical story set in a high school, though it’s “across the pond”? Aside from being a time for education, many young folks are breaking through their teen personas to become their true “adult selves”. And that’s where much of the dramatic conflict in this tale begins. This saga’s subject is, well, more than a bit flamboyant, at least for this small working-class town. Ah, but he’s proud and fairly loud, which accounts for why EVERYBODY’S TALKING ABOUT JAIMIE.
And that “talking point” is a high school senior Jaime New (Max Harwood), who lives in a modest duplex with his single “mum”, the hard-working, self-sacrificing, always encouraging Margaret (Sarah Lancashire). Jaimie happily awakens near dawn to deliver newspapers all around his Sheffield neighborhood in order to finance his passions. It seems that after “coming out of the closet’, he now wants to stock it with eye-popping fashions, particularly a pair of sparkly high heels. Once at school, Jaimie checks in with best pal Pritti Pasha (Lauren Patel) a shy, smart Muslim girl who is his biggest fan. But on the opposite end is the bullying jock Dean Paxton (Samuel Bottomley) who, along with his jeering “crew”, is quick with a “slam”. And he’s given lots of “fuel” in Ms. Hedge’s (Sharon Horgan) class when she asks Jaimie about his future goals. After much prodding from Pritti, he proclaims that he’s going to be a famous “drag queen”. Later that day, Margaret and her best pal, the frisky Ray (Shobna Gulati) throw him a big backyard birthday party where he receives a card with cash from his estranged dad (“faked by mum). Jaimie, again with the “push” from Pritti, takes his birthday bucks into a quiet fashion shop owned by a former drag entertainer named Hugo Battersby (Richard E. Grant). After regaling Jaimie with stories and home videos of his glory 1980s days, Hugo takes the lad under his glittery wing and relates the tricks, and “tucks’, of the “trade’. It’s decided that Jaimie will debut his “drag diva” character at a big show at the local “rec center”. But can he pull it off as he “suits up”? And how will this impact his last few weeks of high school, especially the big prom dance that’s the fun finale for the semester?
Harwood has all the necessary energy, along with spunk and sass, in the film’s title role. Yes, he’s great in all the big dizzy musical numbers, but he also brings a quiet empathy to the more somber sequences. it also helps that he’s able to make us still root for Jaimie even as dives into self-absorbed prima donna tantrums as he disregards his fervent cheerleaders in pursuit of his big goal. One of those big boosters is his mum, played with warmth and some real pathos by Lancashire. The script often puts Margaret on the sidelines, but Lancashire speaks volumes with her sad, tear-filling eyes as the housekeeper shunted by the spotlight. Luckily she’s not merely in Jaimie’s corner thanks to her lovely friendship with Ray, played with a sunny, flirty wink by the engaging Gulati. She never seems to be flaunting her romantic romps in Margaret’s face, but rather wants to inspire her to quit living through her son and ‘get out there”. Besides mum, the other big Jaimie fan is Pritti who Patel plays as more than a BFF. She conveys a real longing to break out of her family’s cultural stereotypes and establish herself in the school social system. Plus there’s that adoring look she gives her pal, telling us that her heart will have to be patient, and wait for someone’s that not a platonic crush.The cast is anchored by two screen vets, First, there’s the always terrific Horgan who handles the complex character of the main teacher, Ms. Hedge. She wants to be nurturing to Jaimie, but doesn’t wish to indulge his whims, but rather prepare him for the tough world out there (and she’s frustrated as every kids thinks they’re headed for stardom). the big scene stealer is Grant who exudes the right mix of snark and warmth as Jaimie’s sequined “Yoda”, who’s annoyed by his generational ignorance, but invigorated by the kid’s wide-eyed enthusiasm. He helps Jaimie, while the lad pulls him out of a nostagic quagmire.
First-time feature director Jonathan Butterell gives the whole first act of the film a nice, candy-colored shine as it bounces from Jaimie’s home to the raucous high school. The source materials’ stage roots are hidden by the terrific camerawork and authentic locations. Unfortunately only a couple of the songs stick while most have a forgettable fizz of wall-to-wall pop preciousness touting the wonders of the title hero. Plus the choreography and editing are exhaustingly frenetic with the high school classes engaged in very complex synchronized moves as the close-ups bounce from one wildly gyrating group to another. Plus the film has a third act lag as the big conflict arises from Jaimie’s pettiness (again, he’s not always in the right). But kudos to screenwriters Tom MacRae and Dan Gillespie Sells for not treating us to an ending full of universal acceptance, as some folks will remain steadfastly intolerant. And extra points for the archival footage of the real Jaimie over the end credits. It’s a nice bit of fluffy fantasy with an interesting twist on the “big school dance” subgenre of teen flicks. A good time will be had, though at awards time I’m not certain that EVERYBODY’s TALKING ABOUT JAIMIE, still.
2.5 Out of 4
EVERYBODY’S TALKING ABOUT JAIMIE streams exclusively on Amazon Prime beginning on Friday, September 17, 2021