The Movie Guru: “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie,” “The Afterlife of the Party” fun streaming offeringsSep 16, 2021 09:15AM ● By Jenniffer Wardell
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (Amazon Prime)
If you have a good message and catchy musical numbers, there’s a lot you can get away with.
Add a magnetic young lead making his big-screen debut, and you’ve got “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.” Based on the West End musical about a British teen who dreams about being a drag queen, the movie is a fun, uplifting look at being true to yourself and how much courage that sometimes takes. First-time film director Jonathan Butterell might not have been the best choice to bring the movie to the screen, which is awkward in places and flags in the second half, but there’s a lot here to love.
The musical numbers are all dazzling, ranging from bubbly fun to more introspective numbers that touch on LGBT history. Max Harwood is fantastic as Jamie, with the kind of presence that steals your attention every second he’s onscreen. Richard E. Grant is a treat as Hugo Battersby, a retired drag queen who inspires Jamie to live his dreams. Though Butterell’s inexperience shows in places, including some ungainly filming choices, you’ll be happy to keep humming along.
Grade: Three stars
Afterlife of the Party (Netflix)
This is one of those movies that audiences like a lot more than critics do, and there’s nothing wrong with that. A party girl named Cassie (Victoria Justice) dies in a freak accident, and in order to make it to heaven she has to set things right with her lifelong best friend and her divorced parents. Though there are some heartbreaking moments – her father’s biggest issue is getting over his grief – the majority of the movie is sweet and funny. Midori Francis is adorable as Lisa, Cassie’s quieter, more serious lifelong friend, and Robyn Scott is delightful as Cassie’s no-nonsense angelic mentor. Though Cassie herself can sometimes come off as short-sighted and self-involved, Justice makes it clear that she also has a good heart. The last few minutes are ridiculously over the top, even for a movie like this, but the rest of the movie is feel-good enough that it’s easy to forgive.
Grade: Two and a half stars
Lady of the Manor (for rent and on demand)
When you look at the summary, “Lady of the Manor” seems like it should be a deeply entertaining supernatural mystery. A down-on-her-luck woman gets a job as a tour guide in a manor house that turns out to be haunted, and she and the ghost have to work together to right an old injustice. It’s a comedy rather than a drama, which means that there’s going to be more screaming and falling over things than actual danger, but that can be fun in its own way. You even have Judy Greer as the ghost, which means she’s going to be likeable whether the script helps her out or not.
Sadly, the movie insists on being one of those comedies where there’s an extended joke about a person being forced to sign up for the sex offender registry. It’s as wincingly unfunny as it sounds, and moments like it keep cropping up throughout “Lady of the Manor.” It’s like walking through a field of flowers and constantly stepping in cow manure, and it taints the entire experience. No matter how tempting the movie sounds from the description, this one is definitely worth skipping.
Grade: One star
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Utah Film Critics Association. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at [email protected]