English Village High School Goes Drag When ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’

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Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (CREDIT: Amazon)

Starring: Max Harwood, Sarah Lancashire, Lauren Patel, Shobna Gulati, Ralph Ineson, Sharon Horgan, Richard E. Grant, Adeel Akhtar, Samuel Bottomley

Director: Jonathan Butterell

Running Time: 120 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Some Cruel Words and a Few Dustups

Release Date: September 10, 2021 (Select Theaters)/September 17, 2021 (Amazon Prime Video)

Drag is huge nowadays. But it wasn’t that long ago when playing around with gender expression in many public spaces was totally verboten. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is coming out in 2021, the same year as RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 13, but the stage musical it’s based on premiered in England four years ago, and the TV documentary that inspired it aired back in 2011, way before Drag Race broke into the mainstream. That is all to say, the story of 16-Year-Old Prom Drag Queen Jamie New (Max Harwood) is an Instant Period Piece. I don’t come anywhere close to batting my eye when I hear that a boy in an English village revealed in front of his whole school his propensity for dressing and performing in traditionally femnine garb, and I know I’m not the only one who feels that way. But not everyone is currently that open-minded, but nevertheless we know that Jamie is going to find his allies by movie’s end.

Since there’s not much need for worry, Jamie’s story will be satisfying so long as it’s compelling and features interesting characters. (And of course, also, if the tunes are catchy … which they are, if you’re into the whole modern rock opera sort of thing.) So we see him hanging out with his best friend Pritti (Lauren Patel), who’s always there to encourage him, just so long as it doesn’t get in the way of her Life Plan too much. And then there’s his mom Margaret (Sarah Lancashire) and her best friend Ray (Shobna Gulati), who are his biggest, most undying supporters. Meanwhile, Jamie’s trying to reach out to the dad that abandoned him (Ralph Ineson) while also dealing with some bullies and a teacher (Sharon Horgan) who simply must insist on always doing everything the proper way. This is, as I’m sure many viewers will recognize, a fairly typical teenage experience. These moments all feel like the biggest deals in the world when they’re happening, and prom feels like the massive culmination of all that. But really, this is a time when your mortal enemy could easily become your friend, and prom is mostly just an occasion to hang out with all your buds.

What’s not so typical of this tale is Loco Chanel, the veteran drag queen brought to dramatic, achingly heartfelt life by Richard E. Grant. Jamie is profoundly fortunate to encounter someone like this, and so are we. The mentorship Loco provides is invaluable. We should all be so lucky to be able to know someone who immediately encourages us to be our truest selves while also lavishly explaining the world that we’re about to enter into. So many kids today are excited to enter the world of drag, and watching Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is a perfectly decent way to get a sense of what that might be all about.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is Recommended If You Like: Well-timed Bianca Del Rio cameos, Modern Rock-Style Musicals, Rebelling against the stuffy English school system

Grade: 3 out of 5 High Heels

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Victoria & Abdul’ Reunites Judi Dench with a Classic Role and One of Her Best Directors

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CREDIT: Focus Features

This review was originally posted on News Cult in September 2017.

Starring: Judi Dench, Ali Fazal, Eddie Izzard, Tim Pigott-Smith, Adeel Akhtar, Michael Gambon

Director: Stephen Frears

Running Time: 112 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Uptight Brits Trying (and Sometimes Failing) to Avoid Cursing and Discussing Naughty Bits

Release Date: September 22, 2017 (Limited)

With Victoria & Abdul, Judi Dench returns to the role that earned the dame her first Oscar nomination 20 years ago, and the Academy may very come calling yet again. Of course, such recognition is a distinct possibility for every Dench performance, but that is no reason not to say it again whenever it is called for. As with Mrs. Brown, the narrative focuses on the widowed Queen Victoria’s deeply close relationship with a servant. This time it is Abdul Karim (played with boundless oomph by Bollywood star Ali Fazal), an Indian man whose trip to England was originally meant to be a quick appearance to present the queen with a gift from her subjects but who ultimately became her confidant and spiritual teacher.

Looking over some of the other reviews of Victoria & Abdul, I must admit that I am probably lacking the best experience with which to approach this film. I am not a British citizen, nor do I hail from any country that has ever lived under the kingdom’s imperialist rule. The film might be guilty of whitewashing or revisionist history. I cannot speak sufficiently to its value as a document of record, but I can say that as storytelling, it is dynamic and morally engaging. It might make its heroes and villains more clear-cut than they actually were, but that approach does paint a valuable picture of what it means to be human towards each other.

As he proved with Philomena (the last time he guided Dench to an Oscar nomination), director Stephen Frears knows how to gradually suss out the seriousness from what at first appears to be a happy-go-lucky buddy flick. This could have just been the story of a woman in her twilight years who serendipitously developed a new close friendship that was surprising in many ways. And that would have been perfectly charming. But Victoria and Abdul’s story is much more than that.

Victoria uses the powers of her throne to insist that all subjects be treated justly and properly, thus bucking the push for decorum from the more openly racist members of her court. This is relatively low-risk for someone in her position of power, but that does not make it any less admirable. Much more complicated is Abdul’s behavior. He is encouraged by a fellow Indian servant not to prostrate himself so readily to the oppressor, but he finds a higher spiritual calling in the work of a servant, no matter what the greater context. Those who detect a problematic approach in Abdul’s portrayal are not necessarily wrong, but it is worthwhile to test out the more transcendent approach.

Victoria & Abdul is Recommended If You Like: Philomena, Any and all British royal pictures, Judi Dench at her Dench-iest

Grade: 4.5 out of 5 Carpets