The Greatest Showman follows P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman) during his early days in show business before the great success of the circus. Filled with wonder and a lively musical score, Showman is a perfect fit for audiences this holiday season. It is unclear how much of the story is historically factual, however, that doesn’t take away from the magic of it all in the slightest.
I found the music to be the lifeblood of the film because it is truly fantastic and in many ways outshines the actual narrative. Every song featured is boisterous, bright and filled with meaningful lyrics. I really appreciated the contemporary sound, rather than the music that was more reflective of the time period (presumably the 1800’s).
Showman also features a wonderfully talented cast. Hugh Jackman in particular seems to be having the time of his life and gives an honest and light-hearted performance, one which I will personally remember and respect. As his wife and childhood sweetheart Michelle Williams is great, although a little under-utilized in the role.
Zendaya (Spider-Man: Homecoming) and Zac Efron (Hairspray) star as Anne and Philip respectively and their mutual attraction is threatened by constraints of the time period. Both are great performers and I enjoyed seeing them onscreen together even though the moments they shared often felt a little glossed over.
The supporting cast is a myriad of colorful characters with unique oddities; Kaela Settle portrays singing bearded lady Lettie, Sam Humphrey appears as the diminutive, but feisty Tom, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II plays Anne’s older brother and fellow trapeze artist. They are just a few of the folks who make up Barnum’s circus.
This brings me to my issue with The Greatest Showman, which is the fact that it lacks a strong narrative.
For instance, I would have loved to know more about the people who actually made up Barnum’s circus. They are clearly marginalized and feared by society simply because of their outward appearance. The movie has a message of inclusivity and celebration of everyone’s humanity (which I think is fantastic), but the story feels rushed almost from the beginning and we learn little about the very people we are supposed to admire and root for.
The film also lacks a clear timeline; it begins during Barnum’s childhood and then jumps to him as an adult, but after that everything happens so rapidly that the audience is left unsure how many days, months or years it actually takes for the circus to get off the ground. It all happened in an unimaginably short amount of time, which seems a little far-fetched at best.
As aforementioned, I’m unsure about what is accurate and what is imagination on the part of the filmmakers, but adding more nuance to the story would have probably given audiences a chance to connect as deeply with these characters as intended.
The Greatest Showman is not flawless by any means, but I think it’s one of the better ways to spend your time at the cinema before the year ends! Showman is directed by newcomer Michael Gracey, the screenplay comes from Jenny Bicks (Rio 2) and Bill Condon (Dreamgirls), and the original music is composed by La La Land‘s Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Austyn Johnson, Cameron Seely, Keala Settle, Sam Humphrey, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Eric Anderson.
The Greatest Showman is currently in theaters!
What is your favorite musical? Have a must-see suggestion for me? Let me know in the comments below!