The Greatest Showman is an enjoyable musical/drama holiday movie with some semi-meaningful messages that stick and a few addictive song numbers. The film has our boy Hugh Jackman starring alongside Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, Keala Settle, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II & Zendaya in her second feature film. The movie tells the story of how P. T. Barnum started the Barnum & Bailey Circus which actually closed its doors for good this year after over 145 years in showbiz.
The movie presumably takes place in the 1850’s & 1860’s, but you wouldn’t know that from the actual film because they obviously didn’t care about history in this movie so it’s tough for me to call this a time-period drama. However, what the movie lacks in historical accuracy it makes up for in the cast’s acting. Hugh Jackman is such a great actor but his character seemed very forced onto the audience. I admit, I came into this movie expecting to always want to see adamantium claws popping out of Jackman’s hands, but he succeeded in making me believe he was actually P. T. Barnum, the great showman.
Every scene with Zendaya was great, which wasn’t a lot. Zendaya was in a lot of the background shots but when it came to actual lines, she got played. She and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II play a brother/sister acrobat and trapeze duo named Anne & W.D. who were desperate for work, especially with the current racial climate of things. The movie suffers from a lot of popcorn/sugary moments that makes it hard to truly connect to the deeper message of the film and they missed their chance to tackle the racial tension that lies within Zendaya & Yahya’s characters. Every time you thought they would go for it, the movie shies away which was an utter disappointment. Rather than exploring the complexity of Anne, she mostly existed to be a love interest for Zac Efron’s Philip Carlyle and add depth to his character. Annoying, I know, but I’ll let it go (for now).
The cinematography was excellent and probably my favorite part of this movie. Everything just clicked. The song number with Anne & Philip in the circus as they perform with the tight ropes was amazing and beautiful to watch. The movie’s main theme and song, “This Is Me” also has an amazing shot sequence and dance number that just made me want to get out my seat and hit the choreography with the rest of the cast.
Michelle Williams plays Charity Barnum, P. T.’s wife, but don’t get your hopes up if you’re a fan of her work. She got just about as many lines and scenes as Zendaya did if you can believe that. It’s really a shame to have such great actors like Williams, Zendaya, & Yahya Abdul-Mateen only to have them play second fiddle to Zac Efron’s character who I couldn’t have cared less for.
A movie about taking big risks and committing to your dreams ironically didn’t follow its own message. There are some great messages about self-love, accepting yourself and figuring out your place in this world; this is mostly due to Jackman’s role as P. T. and is established early on in the film when he recruits. However, it was Jackman’s very own character that threw away all those values when it was convenient for the writers to drive the story forward in the second act, making all those messages he preached fall flat. What irked me the most about this is that the rest of the cast quickly forgave him and just moved on.
The movie’s MVP for me was Keala Settle’s Lettie Lutz, the bearded lady. This woman had vocals and delivered a powerful performance throughout the movie. A tender and wounded character became such a strong & confident mother figure for the rest of the circus to rely on and she shoulders that burden well. This was one of the only characters to actually pull some emotions out of the viewer, no matter how hard they tried with Hugh Jackman’s character.
All in all, this is an enjoyable movie. There are some fun musical numbers and on the surface, this film is inspiring. It was beautifully shot by Seamus McGarvey and the writing isn’t half bad. Zendaya is bae (sorry Dorian) and an incredible actress; I can’t wait to see her in more movies very soon. If you’re looking for something to see during this holiday season, go check out The Greatest Showman!