Photo Credit: Ma_Co2013 on Flickr.com
By Danielle Cruz
Starring Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum, the visionary entrepreneur who founded the Barnum and Bailey Circus, The Greatest Showman brings together elements of the circus and Broadway to the big screen.
The Greatest Showman also brings together Hollywood and Broadway A-Listers like Zac Efron, who plays Barnum’s eventual business partners Philip Carlyle, Zendaya Coleman, who plays Anne Wheeler an African American trapeze artist, Keala Settle, who plays Lettie Lutz or the Bearded Lady and Michelle Williams, who plays Barnum’s wife Chastity Barnum.
While not necessarily historically accurate the movie does a great job of depicting Barnum’s rags to riches story as he works against the odds to create “The Greatest Show on Earth.”
The movie starts out showing Barnum’s poor lifestyle as the son of a tailor who wishes to make enough money to join the elite and provide a living for his wife and two kids. It is essentially a story of drive and passion to create something never heard of before and standing for what you believe in and taking chances even when everyone and everything is pitted against you.
The Greatest Showman also puts an emphasis of the importance of family and remembering your roots. After Barnum starts to gain fame and a higher social status, he starts to become overcome with greed and forgets where he started. Eventually a series of events like the loss of one of his biggest stars Jenny Lind, played by Rebecca Ferguson, and the burning of his circus cause him to reassess who he has become.
Though all these events send Barnum back to square one it serves as a reminder to him about his roots as he sings From Now On where he promises that “from now on these eyes will not be blinded by the light.”
Another theme of the movie was inclusion and acceptance. In order to build his circus Barnum goes around finding those who don’t fit society’s standards of beauty or normal and gives them a place to be accepted. In fact in the movie, journalist and critic of the circus James Gordon Bennett (played by Paul Sparks) hesitantly admits that, “Some critics might have even called it (the circus) a celebration of humanity.”
The highlight of The Greatest Showman however is not really the actors’ delivery of their lines, but rather the delivery of the musical numbers, with the musicals soundtrack rising to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. Admittedly the only reason I ventured out to see this movie was because I had stumbled upon and subsequently fell in love with the soundtrack.
Even from the beginning the movie opens with a musical number titled The Greatest Show, where Jackman and the other circus performers are seen dancing around the circus proclaiming that the audience is about to bear witness to the greatest show ever created.
The main musical number of the show however, is This Is Me sung by Keala Settle, which won the film an award for Best Original Song at the recent Golden Globes. This musical number is meant to highlight the main message of The Greatest Showman that no one should ever be or have to be ashamed of what makes them different.
As Settle’s character marches alongside other circus performers, as citizens armed with torches hurl insults at them, the lyrics of This Is Me proudly proclaim that “When the sharpest words wanna cut me down, I’m going to send a flood, gonna drown them out, I am brave, I am bruised, I am who I’m meant to be this is me.”
The only issue I had with the delivery of this song was that despite being the central musical number of the film I couldn’t help but feel as though the build up to it was fairly rushed. Celebrating and accepting differences was supposed to be the main message of the story but by the end it felt as though it had become a sort of background storyline.
It seemed to me that when they were focusing on Barnum the pace of the movie slowed down, but once the scenes shifted to the other circus performers and their struggle to be accepted the pace of the movie picked up with scenes moving so fast that you felt that if you blinked you might miss the entire dialogue.
I had the same problem with Zendaya’s and Efron’s characters’ love story, which at times felt as though it had been thrown into the storyline sort of aimlessly. Their duet Rewrite the Stars and the accompanying trapeze choreography however, was performed beautifully and brought back memories of Efron from his High School Musical.
While most of it flaws can mostly attributed to its short run time of 1 hour and 46 minutes the movie still did fairly well in the box office ranking in approximately $158 million in revenue while its soundtrack has remained in the top five of the Billboard 200 chart for the past 10 weeks.