When gay high school senior Jamie New (Max Harwood) turned 16 years old, he made the bold decision that he will be going to their prom in full drag. To prepare himself of his flashy debut, Jaime sought the mentorship of drag store proprietor Hugo Battersby (Richard E. Grant), who was a flamboyant star drag performer named Loco Chanelle.
His mother Margaret (Sarah Lancashire) and his best friend Pritti Pasha (Lauren Patel) were supportive of Jamie's plan. However, class bullies led by the cruel Dean Paxton (Samuel Bottomley), strict teacher Miss Hedge (Sharon Horgan) and his frustrated estranged father Wayne (Ralph Ineson) would hear nothing more of it.
This film was based on a 2017 stage musical of the same title. featuring music by Dan Gillespie Sells and book and lyrics by Tom MacRae. This story was based on a documentary film entitled "Jamie: Drag Queen at 16" directed by Jeanne Popplewell, about a real incident involving a gay teenager who wanted to wear a dress to his prom. The stage origins of the film can be clearly felt in the production style of the song and dance numbers.
The group songs sung by the lead characters and their classmates, like "Spotlight," "Everybody's Talking About Jamie" and the closing song "Out of the Darkness" have a very "High School Musical" quality about them. However, the best song for me was "My Man, Your Boy," an emotional duet sung by Jamie and his mother when they profess their love and loyalty to each other. This beautiful mother-son duet can transcend its context in the film.
Making his auspicious film debut here is 23-year old Max Harwood in the lead role of Jamie New. As a confused teenager, the character of Jamie could be irrational, annoying and may not always be likable, but Haywood made us all feel Jamie's plea for acceptance.
Veteran British actress Sarah Lancashire was moving as Jamie's supportive mum. 2018 Academy Award nominee Richard E. Grant surprised in his brave performance as a faded drag queen.
The topic it tackles is very controversial and still may not be easily accepted by conservative audiences. It is one thing for a boy to come out as gay, but quite another thing for a gay boy to further come out as a drag queen.
Even if this was in the form of a musical, it was not all fun and games. The filmmakers did show the cruelty, pain and violence involved. After everything though, somehow you knew how things would all turn out at the prom.
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."