This big-hearted musical comedy started life on the stage in 2017 - en 10 years before that as a TV documentary about the true story of gay teenager Jamie Campbell, wie se droom was om 'n drag queen te wees. The broad characterisation, dialogue and scene transitions probably worked better on stage, but they give a bounce to this feelgood Britfilm version, which has newcomer Max Harwood as Jamie, Sarah Lancashire as his tenderly understanding mum Margaret, and Lauren Patel as his best mate Priti; Sharon Horgan has the thankless task of playing the uptight teacher who won’t let Jamie turn up to the school prom in drag, while Richard E Grant has a scene-stealer as Hugo Battersby, AKA “Loco Chanel”, a veteran drag queen artiste who campaigned against homophobia in the 1980s and who mentors Jamie in his new vocation.
In some ways, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie conforms to a template that’s been around in British cinema for years, or in fact decades: Jamie wants to be a drag queen in the way that he might in previous stories have wanted to be a ballet dancer, or even train a kestrel. It’s also part of an honourable film tradition of building a better life through showbusiness, as in The Full Monty. In the classroom, Jamie has a withering contempt for the civilians, muggles and dullards who presume to mock him and make homophobic remarks – and as far as post-school goes, he certainly convinces you that the really shallow and tragic career choice is going for the straight world of office and call centre. Grant gives a nice performance; his drag persona has hair that looks like a certain 1980s-era prime minister.