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

Wow, ‘The Green Knight’ Sure Might Knock Your Head Loose

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The Green Knight (CREDIT: Eric Zachanowich/A24)

Starring: Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, Sarita Choudhury, Sean Harris, Kate Dickie, Barry Keoghan, Ralph Ineson, Erin Kellyman

Director: David Lowery

Running Time: 130 Minutes

Rating: R for Violence and a Little Bit of Sex Within a Fantastical Swirl

Release Date: July 30, 2021 (Theaters)

My experience of watching The Green Knight was just moment after moment that had me going, “I was not expecting THAT.” It starts off pretty quickly that way: Sir Gawain (Dev Patel) beheads the Green Knight (Ralph Ineson), but the Green Knight keeps right on talking. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t that. If you’re familiar with the source material, this inciting incident won’t be surprising at all, but for the rest of us, it won’t exactly feel telegraphed. Then there’s the fact that this tale takes place around Christmas, which certainly surprised me as well. Although perhaps it shouldn’t have, considering that “green” is in the title and much of the poster is bright red. But other than that, this movie doesn’t feel very Christmas-y. Though I suppose that centuries ago the holiday was celebrated differently. (“Why not have a release date in December instead of July?,” I wonder out loud.)

The poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight sits at a weird place in terms of cultural recognizability. It’s part of Arthurian legend, which is among the most enduringly popular mythologies in the English language. But this particular tale isn’t typically told in the most well-known adaptations. If you’re a fan of the likes of Camelot, The Sword in the Stone, or Monty Python and the Holy Grail, you might be familiar with the name “Gawain,” but his encounter with a tricky tree-man hybrid could be totally undiscovered. It’s a trip to first encounter it via David Lowery’s highly stylized and uncompromising vision.

I’m willing to bet my sword that anyone who has read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight before seeing this movie also found themselves saying multiple times, “I was not expecting THAT.” (But they would have been saying it while reading.) There’s no way in Camelot that Lowery can take all the credit for every fantastical twist of gamesmanship and illogic. What is the Green Knight’s deal anyway? When he gets beheaded, he insists that Gawain must come find him one year hence to meet a similar fate. Is this a test of honor, and if so, how? I was not expecting that much confusion.

But it kept coming! Was Alicia Vikander playing two different characters? She must have been, as her personalities were so vastly different. I was not expecting such vagueness with her identity. Nor was I expecting an up-close shot of a very intimate moment. The mature themes and capriciousness in a medieval fantasy aren’t surprises in and of themselves, but their presentation in this version were a lot more surreal than I was prepared for. I’m still processing what I’ve witnessed, and I’m not sure that process will ever be complete, but I appreciate the singularity of the vision.

The Green Knight is Recommended If You Like: Embracing the weirdest and most inscrutable elements of mythology

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Beheadings

‘Brahms: The Boy II’ Throws It in Reverse

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CREDIT: STX Films

Oh, Brahms-y boy, Brahms-y boy, Brahms-boyyyyy

(I promised myself that no matter how I ultimately felt about this movie, I would start off my review of Brahms to the tune of “Danny Boy,” so I pray that you were able to indulge me for a few seconds.)

To my eye, the biggest twist of Brahms: The Boy II is that it was written and directed by the same writer-director combo as the first Boy (a couple of folks named Stacey Menear and William Brent Bell, respectively). The original explained the antics of its creepy doll by assuring us that what seemed supernatural actually had a reasonable explanation. But in the sequel, what seems like it will have a reasonable explanation is actually supernatural. That sort of switch is not atypical in horror franchises, but it’s usually dictated by studios scrambling to extend a property and/or a new creative team applying a fresh coat of paint. Perhaps Menear and Bell chose to take a self-aware approach and get ahead of the inevitable or maybe they just never felt married to any one particular way of doing things. Whatever the motivation, it makes me optimistic that The Boy could become a long-running low-budget horror series even if it never reaches any significant heights. After all, while Brahms gave me more to think about than I was expecting, most of it is still just a series of waits for a piece of porcelain to move a few inches every once in a while.

I give Brahms: The Boy II A Hearty Pat on the Back.