Review written by: Josh Kristianto, Film Frenzy Contributing Writer.
In 2017, Michael Gracey released The Greatest Showman, inspired by the life of P.T. Barnum and the origins of Barnum & Bailey Circus. Starring Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Zendaya, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson, Keala Settle, Natasha Liu ordizzo, Paul Sparks, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, the film has grossed $7.7 million as of December 21.
Born with no family and in squalor, P.T. Barnum finds fame after opening a circus full of peculiar and shocking performers. However, when his successes only arouse a desire for something greater than sideshow mediocrity, Barnum risks family and friends and sets out to discover what his heart truly requires for happiness.
A fantastic film, The Greatest Showman presents an exuberant cast, taking a satisfying step in the right direction, continuing the momentum past films initiated in taking the antiquated musical genre and breathing new life into them. Expectations for modern and original musicals were high and this film took said wave, delivering exactly what audiences wanted.
From the start, the film seeks to capture its audience’s attention, succeeding to do so through a swirling musical number where P.T. Barnum illustrates his vision for what he is looking for in show business. These opening scenes work well in positioning the film’s tone, range and potential, inviting the viewer into the world that not only shaped Barnum’s ambition, but continues to do so to this day. As the film progresses, the viewer is steadily introduced to Barnum’s family and a company of outcasts. These characters serve as notable conduits for the film’s primary themes of belonging, loyalty and ultimate value.
The film allows the audience to learn about each of the characters, their hopes and fears, presenting the extent they play into the aforementioned themes. Fascinatingly, this could possibly be the overall reason why the film does not take the audience deeper into who the real Barnum was. Neglecting this aspect to his character is absolved by the film taking the viewers on a journey to feel the public persona he created for himself. This is done quite powerfully thanks to the unabashed grasps at splendor and a sense of magic found throughout the film.
As for the pacing, the story plays itself out in a measured pace, with interludes of song and dance falling in at regular intervals. There is never a moment where it could be forgotten the film is a musical as the music and lyrics blended flawlessly into the story’s progression. As such, this made it so each character could have a chance at an emotional connection with the audience. Further, each song is entertaining in and of itself with some of them being enlightening and very moving at times.
A seemingly major aspect of the film’s success was a robust performance by Jackman, who is able to portray a determined rags-to-riches businessman with a heart of gold convincingly. Alongside him, Efron and Zendaya share a surprisingly believable chemistry, playing well all through the film. Overall, there is not anything lacking in the acting, but at the same time, not many of the other actors really stand out.
Moreover, the style of the set designs makes the film glow and sparkle with excitement, perhaps only matched by attending a circus in real life. The breathtaking dance scene which Barnum and his wife share on the rooftops is a prime example. It is accompanied by an oversized bluish moon in the background and wispy white sheets decorating the floor, accentuating the whole thing perfectly. Gracey utilizes slow motion in such a way the film is enhanced, giving gravity to certain scenes. The blend of camera angles is not tiresome either.
Whereas the above makes for a unique and wonderful film, its plot really is not anything viewers have not seen before. It displays a rise to power and fame, eventually spoiled by a tragic series of events aiding the main character to discover what it is his heart truly needs. Yet, the filmmakers make good use of poignancy and a good dash of heart, throwing in enough to permit the audience to care about what happens next, demand for justice at the end and be thrilled to see the outcome.
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Awards & Recognitions
bold indicates reception of award/recognition
Golden Globe Awards
- Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy
- Best Original Song - Motion Picture (This is Me)
- Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy (Hugh Jackman)
Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards
- Best Song (This is Me)
- Truly Moving Picture Award