Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is showing now on Amazon Prime and in selected cinemas nationwide.
The journey from stage to the big screen is never an easy one for any musical. Often the very things that make a stage musical successful with audiences fail to translate as they move to the screen. History is littered with these casualties, from the infuriatingly awful Cats to a less than perfect Les Miserables and Evita. And if early reviews and footage are anything to go by, Dear Evan Hanson is soon to join this list. However, occasionally movies get it right, for example, West Side Story, Oliver, Rent and Chicago. These movie musicals build on the narrative strength of the stage shows they represent, expanding the characters beyond the stage door. Furthermore, they take the music to new heights as they embrace the multi-dimensional sound of cinema.
Based on a BBC Three documentary broadcast in 2011, Dan Gillespie Sells and Tom MacRae’s musical adaptation proudly took the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield by storm in February 2017. Soon after, Jamie would do the same in the West End, becoming one of the biggest hits of 2017/18. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie brought fresh new energy to the West End. Its original cast, lighting up the Apollo Theatre night after night for eager audiences keen to talk about Jamie New. But, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’s journey to the big screen was made more problematic by the outbreak of COVID 19.
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The Warp Pictures and Film 4 movie adaptation announced in 2018 would initially find a home with 20th Century Fox, transferring to Disney after the Fox merger. However, during the hiatus of COVID 19, Disney’s 20th Century Studios decided to relinquish distribution rights to the movie, with Amazon Prime quickly stepping in. This would ultimately lead Everybody’s Talking About Jamie to a streaming premiere, only gracing a handful of cinema screens nationwide. Unfortunately, this will affect people’s experience of the movie; after all, musicals are designed to be watched on a big screen with panoramic sound. And yes, while I fully accept some fortunate souls will watch the film on a 70″ OLED TV with Dolby sound, others may not be as lucky.
But, discussions on streaming versus cinema aside, Butterell’s film adaptation holds on tight to the original stage production in avoiding any significant stumbling blocks. However, it does attempt to build upon the story, weaving in an enriched focus on Jamie’s complicated relationship with his absent dad. While at the same time delicately adjusting certain scenes and characters to fit the narrative timeline of the film. The result is a lively and energetic film adaptation that largely shines with a joyful heart. However, throughout Butterell’s film, something also feels missing in elevating Jamie’s story to new heights. For several hours after watching the movie, I tried to identify this missing piece, struggling to put my finger on what was lacking. But then I found myself thinking back to my stage show experience in 2018, and suddenly it clicked.
Butterell’s film lacks the emotional intensity of the stage production, its big, powerful and moving songs, disrupted by a desire to keep the audience engaged through visuals. For example, ‘It Means Beautiful’ drifts away from Pritti (Lauren Patel), lessening the impact of her words and her unique story. While ‘He’s My Boy’ once again drifts away from Jamie’s mum (Sarah Lancashire). This ultimately creates an emotional void in the story—the high-energy songs given far more attention than the quiet, story-building moments.
Equally, while ‘This Was Me’ adds an essential historical background to Jamie’s journey through the eyes of Hugo (Richard E Grant), it feels disconnected and quickly forgotten in the overarching narrative. The themes raised, never quite finding a steady voice in the supportive relationship between Hugo and Jamie. While these minor niggles do not overly distract from the film’s success, they do stifle its potential impact.
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Despite these flaws, there’s no doubting the talent on display in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, and the feel-good vibes the film gives off. And let’s face it, after 18 months of nothing but depressing news, we all need a significant lift. Here, Jamie doesn’t disappoint; its colourful cinematography and toe-tapping numbers a pure joy from the opening scene to the last. But, it’s when this energy is placed in the hands of a truly exceptional cast that Jamie earns its stripes as an instant hit, even if it’s not a perfect one. Here, the production teams choice to place an unknown actor into the role of Jamie pays dividends. Max Harwood’s performance is joyous, bright and proud, his delightful interpretation of Jamie New full of emotional depth, humour and youthful energy.
In conclusion, while Everybody’s Talking About Jamie never quite reaches its full onscreen potential, core messages of inclusivity, diversity, and hope remain intact. The resulting picture, a delightful mix of pop-inspired music and colourful and engaging performances. And despite lacking the cinema outing it deserved, let’s hope Everybody’s Talking About Jamie reaches as many young people through streaming as possible. After all, society still forces too many young people to hide the unique and beautiful differences they carry due to bigotry. If Everybody’s Talking About Jamie reaches just a handful of these kids and in turn encourages them to bring their light to the surface, its job is done.