The Greatest Showman
The Greatest Showman is an Entertaining Drama with Great Songs but Lacks the Magic of La La Land
Movie Review by Anirudh Madhav (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
Lending a modern musical twist to the work of Phineas Taylor Barnum, The Greatest Showman focuses less on the life and story of the legendary American Showman. It tends to ignore the hoaxes that P.T was accused of committing. Instead it churns out a magical story on the positives with stunning cinematography, stellar cast and great musical soundtracks that leave an impact. But let’s make it clear, the film is no La La Land!
Set in the nineteenth-century, P.T Barnum (Hugh Jackman) is a poor tailor’s son in Connecticut, who dreams big in life. P.T marries his childhood sweetheart Charity Hallett (Michelle Williams), a daughter of a socialite and promises to give her a great life. But he struggles to hold on to any job and eventually realizes he is meant to be in the show business. P.T decides to open the American Museum in New York. Since it hardly gets any footfall, he decides to follow the advice of his little daughters and do something with ‘real people’. He auditions and rounds up a roster of ‘oddities’ that includes a bearded lady, a dog-faced boy, a tattooed man, and various other such ‘freaks’ and decides to include them in a show. As his fame spreads, he is joined in his so called ‘circus’ by high society playwright Philip Carlyle (Zac Efron). The predictable plot follows the rise-fall-resurrection storyline.
The Greatest Showman hardly wastes any time to establish the lead characters as most scenes erupt into song sequences. But the songs are emotional, colorful and entertaining with Jenny Lind’s (Rebecca Ferguson) performance of ‘This is me’ as an out-of-the world experience. Though the song seems auto tuned in parts, the intensity of Jenny’s emotion and its resonance with the audience strikes the right chords.
Hugh Jackman shines through his role and looks completely at ease playing the legendary showman. It is criminal to cast talented Michelle Williams in an important role and hardly give her scope to perform. Despite this shortcoming, she performs her role of a doting mother of two kids and a supporting wife with flair. Zac Effron hardly gets much screen time and looks out-of-place in a musical. Rebecca Ferguson makes a strong impact in her short but powerful role.
The lyrics by award-winning lyricists Benj Pasek and Justin Paul known for La La Land, lend some remarkable soundtracks. They will be remembered for years to come. The song ‘Rewrite the Stars’, which amplifies the romance between Philip and trapeze artist Anne Wheeler (Zendaya), will stay with you long after you have left the cinema hall.
While the film tends to be entertaining and grand, CGI work seems to be sloppy in most parts. Right from the lions to the depiction of elephant in a musical piece, everything looks unbelievable and thus, make the entire effort juvenile.
Ironically, Journalist James Gordon Bennett (Paul Sparks) who comes across as a harsh critic of P.T’s show mentions that the show is not art and just an exploitation of ‘freaks’. The movie also tends to follow a similar screenplay, with an entertaining storyline ignoring the various facets of the showman. Despite the lack of depth in the characterization and the flaws in the storyline, the engaging soundtracks and the colorful backdrops make up for the flaws.