On his sixteenth birthday, Jamie New (Max Harwood) wakes up in the same boring council flat in the same boring town in the same boring life. But boring is not a word you could ever use to describe Jamie New. He dreams of a life on stage, but not as a pop idol or a YouTuber like his classmates all long to be. Jamie’s got his sights set on the spotlight: Jamie’s going to be a drag queen.
Inspired by true events, this adaptation of Tom MacRae and Dan Gillespie Sells’ smash hit musical follows Jamie as he defies the bullies and the disbelievers and walks his own path — and he does it all wearing six-inch heels.
There’s a level of charisma and magnetism required to headline a film like this, and newcomer Max Harwood is more than up for the challenge. Jamie is Harwood’s film debut and much like the character he embodies, he steps into the spotlight without hesitation.
Having Jonathan Butterell as director is an added boon: Butterell not only directed the stage version of Jamie on the West End but he’s also a notable choreographer. His eye for movement and staging ensures Jamie dazzles just as brightly on the screen as he does beneath the theatre’s spotlight.
The soundtrack is upbeat and joyful, each number a showstopper, but none more so than “This Was Me”, written specifically for the film. The song is a collaboration between Richard E. Grant (as the once great drag queen Loco Chanel), and Frankie Goes to Hollywood singer Holly Johnson. New additions to beloved musicals can be a dangerous gamble — the ultimately forgettable “Suddenly” from 2012’s Les Misérables comes to mind — but this brilliantly ‘80s-esque ballad plays over Loco Chanel’s old home movies, giving Jamie some insight into queer history; the victories and the struggles, the love and the loss; all those sacrifices that paved the way to let Jamie live out loud the way so, so many who came before him never could.
Occasional heartache aside, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is at its core a truly optimistic and uplifting film, something we could definitely see more often from LGBTQIA+ cinema. A warm-hearted, occasionally cheesy celebration of queer culture, of friendship, of love and of family — be it the family you’re born with or the family you chose for yourself along the way.
Writer/director Kay Cannon (Pitch Perfect, Girlboss) has made a career of women-centric stories where the ambitious lead strives for more out of life. Fitting then, that she should take the helm of Cinderella, the latest in a long line of retellings of the classic fairy tale made famous by Charles Perrault.
Starring two-time Latin Grammy winner Camila Cabello, the film opens with Ella and her fellow townsfolk bursting into song. Not your classic throw-open-the-windows-and-shout-bonjour type of song either, this is a mash up of “Rhythm Nation” and “You Gotta Be” that would make the cast of Glee proud.
From the opening notes, Cannon drives home the point that Ella has big dreams. As a dress designer looking to make a name for herself, she wants to make her own way, be her own woman. She’s bringing feminism back to fairy tales, which is a wonderful concept…only it’s been done before, and with a lot more charm.
1998’s Ever After and 2004’s Ella Enchanted both put an empowering spin on the Cinderella story by giving their Ellas progressive ideals and the courage to seek out a more equal society, while incidentally falling in love along the way. Cabello’s Cinderella also has a worthy goal, but instead of equality for the oppressed masses, she’s fighting for the right to sell her dresses in the marketplace.
Another twist to the tale: instead of Ella suffering a lifetime of abuse at the hands of her wicked stepmother and cruel stepsisters, Cannon has taken steps to humanise the women in Ella’s family. The stepmother, Vivian (played by Idina Menzel, whose talent far outweighs the screentime afforded her), wants nothing more than security for her daughters — ideally via a prestigious marriage. She has more in common with a mother from an episode of Bridgerton than a fairy tale villain. True, Ella does live in the basement, but her space is papered with brightly coloured sketches and filled with endless reams of material rather than dustpans and mops (it’s also home to three bumbling mice, one of whom is voiced by James Corden, the less said about that the better).
The ideal husband, according to Vivian, would of course be Prince Robert (Nicholas Galitzine). Prince-of-where-exactly is a little murky, the accents are hardly consistent. As the son of King Rowan and Queen Beatrice (Pierce Brosnan and Minnie Driver in the most unexpected of Goldeneye reunions), Prince Robert doesn’t seem to echo Ella’s dreams of emancipation. In fact, his idea of a hard day’s work is getting drunk and going fox hunting.
He might be a prince but it’s a stretch to call him charming.
Keeping with tradition, the King plans to hold a ball in the hope that his son will finally find himself a bride, and well, you can probably guess what happens next.
Unfortunately, the prince’s big solo number is a cover of “Somebody to Love”, which naturally will be weighed against Anne Hathaway’s version in Ella Enchanted and found wanting. No shade to Galitzine, who is sure to win many hearts with this role, but we can’t help but question the decision behind casting Fra Fee, a trained classical tenor and star of the West End, and leaving him to waste away in the role of prince’s buddy #2.
It seems like most of the film’s powerhouse performers barely get a look-in, the most notable being Billy Porter in the role of fairy godmother. (It’s worth noting that up until his arrival, the concept of magic hasn’t been addressed at all. But as the godmother, or “Fab G” tells Ella: “Let’s not ruin this incredibly magical moment with reason”.) Porter is a showstopper. His presence, comedic timing and sheer vocal talent make his few minutes of screentime the most vibrant of the film.
Cinderella is very aware of what it wants to be, but unfortunately while the songs may be flashy and fun, the beats of the story are off. There aren’t enough laughs to call it a comedy, not enough chemistry between the leads to call it a romance, and while above all it might strive to be something of a feminist manifesto, the message feels clichéd and condescending in its heavy-handedness.
It’s hardly a crime to introduce a new generation to their very own empowered Cinderella, but for those looking for a truly enchanting adaptation with a soundtrack to match, we recommend 1997’s Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella, currently streaming on Disney+.
Drummer extraordinaire and Roots main man Questlove adds to his bulging creative trick-bag by turning director with the wonderfully entertaining and affirming Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised).
The musical Annette is very much the brainchild of the veteran American band Sparks. The brothers Mael (Ron and Russell) wrote the story and created the soundtrack, replete with extremely prodigious lyrics – and it was originally intended to be a Sparks album rather than a film.
The principal setting is present day Los Angeles, and the main character is hugely successful comedian Henry McHenry, played by Adam Driver in a way that impressively combines the sardonic with the expressive. McHenry’s fiancee Ann Defrasnoux (Marion Cotillard) is equally stellar, as an opera soprano. They’re deeply in love, and soon have a daughter.
So far, so boy-meets-girl/whirlwind romance story. Except that it’s not. Remotely. For one thing Annette, the titular baby, is ‘played’ by a puppet and has what should be discreetly referred to only as some unusual traits… McHenry’s stage pronouncements can stray from the funny to the melancholy and even to downright hostile but, again, the less you know going in the better. Virtually all the dialogue (even the crowd scenes) is sung, there are much darker elements – grim, even – and some remarkable set-pieces. The whole film is, in fact, a feast for the eyes. And just as the (essentially choral) music threatens to become too much of a good thing, it changes genre.
Annette is atmospheric, touching, witty, visually striking and lyrical, strangely original, and it boasts that rarity, a great ending.
If you're missing Saturday Night Live, producer Lorne Michaels has got the elixir for you - 6 part comedic musical series inspired by Golden Age musicals, starring Cecily Strong, Keegan Michael-Key, Alan Cumming, Kristin Chenoweth, Martin Short, Aaron Tveit, Dove Cameron, Ariana DeBose, Fred Armisen, Jaime Camil, Jane Krakowski and Ann Harada, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld.