I find it amusing that none of the trailers for The Greatest Showman showed off that it was a full-on musical. If you loved the bright and colorful opening number of La La Land the most, like I did, then you are going to absolutely love The Greatest Showman.
The story is that of Phineas T. Barnum, a man of low station but with big dreams. We first meet him as the child of a poor tailor with an eye on the local gentry’s daughter, Charity (Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain). Romance blossoms, in spite of Charity’s father being an uppity arse about Barnum’s penniless upbringing.
Barnum grows up to be Hugh Jackman (Logan). He takes a risk and buys a museum of oddities. After having no customers, he hosts a collection of human oddities instead. The museum transforms into a circus (and a success). Barnum becomes overconfident and the town’s locals protest. Enter drama. Enter inspirational songs. Enter themes of embracing your difference and being true to yourself.
This is not a new story. But the genius of this movie doesn’t lie in the story, it lies in the spectacle, which is truly something. There’s explosive music, fancy costumes, obviously-animated-but-you-don’t-care elephants and so much pizzaz and spirit in each performer’s eye.
In an interview with director Michael Gracey, he tells the story of production team’s studio pitch. Keala Settle, the movie’s bearded lady, sang the movie’s hit This Is Me. To say she sang it is an understatement. That performance was the performance of her life. She pushed aside the microphone and belted the soon-to-be hit with her complete being. Once she’d finished, tears ran down her face. Rumor has it that the producer came over and whispered in her ear, “you just got yourself a movie.” Lucky for us, they actually filmed that incredible event.
It is this passion and energy that comes through in The Greatest Showman. The love that the actors have for this movie is palpable. It helps, too, that all the movie’s songs are immensely catchy, powerful and original. The music was composed by the same people who brought us the music in La La Land, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. I walked out of the cinema with a big-as smile on my face. When my friend left me at the train station, I immediately went on to Spotify and relived the film via its soundtrack. I listened to the songs again at the gym the next morning. I dare you not to love Come Alive or feel emotional when listening to Never Enough.
It was in the duet between Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron, where they sing and dance with what seems like an endless supply of whiskey shots, that I realized that I loved this movie. Yes, it is cheesy. Yes, it is a simple storyline but, damn, it’s wonderful.
The Greatest Showman is the cure for a world that just survived 2017. It shows us to embrace our differences, to be kind to one another, not to judge outer appearances and to be true to ourselves. Now I sound cheesy but, you know what, I couldn’t care less! This was 145 minutes of joy for me. I was happy to have Hugh Jackman Hugh Jackmanning all over the place. I was happier still to see Zac Efron return to singing and dancing (he’s just so good at it) and I was blown away by the voice of the bearded lady.
Right. Now excuse me, I’m off to listen to the soundtrack for the umpteenth time.