BRIAN VINER review Everyone is talking about Jamie

Everyone is talking about Jamie (12A, 115 mins)

Judgement:

Verdict: energetic but thin

Gunpowder milkshake (15, 114 min)

Judgement:

Verdict: Borderline Offensive

A BBC documentary ten years ago, catchy titled Jamie: Drag Queen At 16, inspired a buzzing West End musical that in turn inspired a movie.

If you haven’t seen the show yet, enjoy it. But if you did, like I did (and loved it), I think you’ll find the movie a frustrating experience.

Of course, folk may have once said the same about West Side Story and The Sound Of Music, other theatrical hits that hit theaters and became enduring classics.

But Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is an Amazon Prime Video release, and from where I sat in my living room – Row A, Seat 1 – most of the qualities that make it work so gleefully on stage undermine it on the small screen.

First things first though. The story is unusual, but straight forward. Jamie (newcomer Max Harwood) is 16, lives in Sheffield with his loving single mother (Sarah Lancashire), but longs for the approval of his estranged father (Ralph Ineson).

If you haven't seen the show yet, enjoy it.  But if you did, like I did (and loved it), I think you'll find the movie a frustrating experience

If you haven’t seen the show yet, enjoy it. But if you did, like I did (and loved it), I think you’ll find the movie a frustrating experience

At his high school everyone knows he is gay. In any case, there is no closet big enough to hide it. Jamie is flamboyant and secretly longs to become a drag queen.

He receives support from his mother, his best friend Pritti (Lauren Patel), and a retired drag performer once known as Loco Chanelle (Richard E. Grant, licensed ham).

The antagonists of the story are his father, the school bully (Samuel Bottomley) and an uptight teacher (Sharon Horgan). Will Jamie beat the naysayers? Will he, by expressing his true self, grow up? And will he and everyone else sing at every opportunity? I think you know the answers.

On stage, this all overflows with exuberance. That the characterization is sparse at best, the drama overdone, the trajectory predictable, somehow just adds to the fun.

Director Jonathan Butterell and writer Tom MacRae, who both created the show, do their best to capture its irresistible spunk. But from the start, for all its pounding energy, the film feels artificial, thin, a pale shadow of both the show and of a picture with a largely similar story but a much more resounding punch, Billy Elliot – who happens to have the opposite effect, works better on screen than on stage.

By the way, Ralph Ineson – whose destiny it is always to be labeled a big Finchy of The Office, no matter what he does – also shows up in Gunpowder Milkshake, as a brash mobster. But this Sky Cinema movie is all about the female characters, not the guys. It’s a feminization of those bullet-shooting, corpse-strewn action movies best exemplified by the John Wick series, which is fine in theory, but director and co-writer Navot Papushado works so hard to make it look stylized and chic. to show that it looks cartoonish and silly.

A decent cast, well and truly wasted, is led by Karen Gillan as Samantha, a hit man whose mother (Lena Headey), also a cold-blooded killer, disappeared 15 years earlier. Sam now works for a sinister organization that, almost inevitably in a movie like this, is called The Firm. Paul Giamatti is their liaison man, instructing her to catch a man who unwisely stole the money from The Firm.

This leads her to an arsenal disguised as a library, where weapons are cutely given the names of female authors (Sam is outfitted with a Jane Austen, a Charlotte Bronte, a Virginia Woolf, and an Agatha Christie), and issued by shadowy characters who are played by Angela Bassett, Carla Gugino and Michelle Yeoh.

It’s all just as crazy as it sounds, and the desperately self-conscious directing flourishes, culminating in a slow-mo carnage in a 1950s restaurant, giving it a comic book vibe that not only feels hollow, but is cross-borderly offensive. As for the determinedly quirky title. . . Sorry, I just don’t care.

Starling that can’t soar

The Starling (no certificate, 102 minutes)

Judgement:

Verdict: featherweight nonsense

12 Mighty Orphans (12, 118 mins)

Judgement:

Verdict: not really a touchdown

About 15 minutes into The Starling, although I can’t promise it won’t be sooner, you start to wonder why anyone bothered to make it?

The cast includes Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd, Kevin Kline and Timothy Olyphant – all captivating performers given the right material.

But The Starling isn’t moving or funny or thought-provoking unless it makes you think you’d rather do something else.

McCarthy (below), in one of her super-serious roles, though occasionally drenched in her comedic timing, plays Lilly, whose world came crashing down due to the sudden death of her daughter a year earlier. To make matters worse, the tragedy landed her Irish husband Jack (O’Dowd) in a mental hospital. Oh and, worse, she is terrorized by a starling in the yard of her beautiful farm.

A terrible script (by Matt Harris), a ghastly score (by Benjamin Wallfisch) and terribly syrupy direction (by Theodore Melfi, whose last feature, 2016’s admirable Hidden Figures, barely prepared us for this maudlin tripe) all manage to showing us how Lilly overcomes this triple blow.

About 15 minutes into The Starling, although I can't promise it won't be sooner, you start to wonder why anyone bothered to make it?

About 15 minutes into The Starling, although I can’t promise it won’t be sooner, you start to wonder why anyone bothered to make it?

Suffice it to say, it owes something to a friendly local vet (Kline) who, with great improbability, is also a trained psychotherapist. The Starling opens in some theaters today, but you’ll get another chance to avoid it when it arrives on Netflix next week.

There’s another dollop of sentimentality in 12 Mighty Orphans, also on digital platforms, which tells the true story of how a 1930s Texas orphanage produced a championship-winning gridiron team, distracting America from the misery of the Great Depression.

Luke Wilson plays the team’s plucky coach, with Martin Sheen as his right-hand man and a cursory cameo for Robert Duvall, so there’s no shortage of talent off the football field, as well as beyond.

But the film never surpasses the quality of one of those cornily saccharine made-for-TV Disney movies that used to be limited to Sunday tea times.

Don’t look back angry

Oasis: Knebworth 1996 (15, 110 minutes)

Judgement:

Verdict: Rock-doc nostalgia

In 1996, the world seemed full of possibilities to people of a certain age.

That’s the message of this documentary, which captures how 250,000 Oasis fans gathered at Knebworth House in Hertfordshire 25 years ago last month for the two biggest rock concerts Britain had ever seen.

It was the year of Euro ’96, Trainspotting and Dolly the Sheep, and Britpop was at its peak. Po-faced newscasters stated that ‘tomorrow Oasis plays Knebworth in what is being called the gig of the decade’.

And it was, whether you like the Gallagher brothers or not.

Jake Scott’s film is a moving chronicle of the event, with relevant contributions from both Liam and Noel (“five boys from two different town halls in Manchester, more than the sum of our parts”), but with far too many memories of random fans, who all found different ways of saying how, you know, fantastically awesome it all was.

“It was literally Willy Wonka and the golden ticket,” says one. Well no, it literally wasn’t.

Still, I enjoyed an archived interview with Lord Cobbold, the owner of Knebworth, who clearly didn’t know his oasis by the elbow.

“I’m sure they’ll be a great success,” he said genteel, and he wasn’t wrong.

In cinemas from next Thursday.

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