Orphaned, penniless but ambitious and with a mind crammed with imagination and fresh ideas, the American Phineas Taylor Barnum will always be remembered as the man with the gift to effortlessly blur the line between reality and fiction.
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The heart won the head on this one. It would be easy to balk at the film's cynical rewriting of history to appeal to the current trend of identity politics; where catchy pop-tracks seem designed to empower the powerless, the marginalised & those without voice, even while the story unfolds through a lens of straight white men. As a perennial outsider the film worked for me, sweeping me along on its stylised spectacle.
I enjoyed the old fashioned MGMness of the spectacle, and the anachronistic songs - fit to burst with millennial-friendly, super-earnest swollen earworm choruses - are tailor-made for its audience. How they managed to construct a "woke" narrative from a factual story about a decidedly non-woke historical figure is so bizarrely ambitious you just have to go with it. Jackman is ridiculously good at this sort of thing.
Perhaps a great film musical was lost somewhere along the way in its production or editing. There are certainly inspired performances, sequences and songs along the way but the film never gels in a way that gets the audience hooked. Jackman gives a strong turn but its young Zendaya who scores biggest in her duet with Zac Efron. A likable enough film but it should have been so much more.
When "The Greatest Showman" embraces its unexpectedly musical side, it's a total blast with some very memorable numbers. When it embraces the exposition, it slowly shows how little meat there is beyond the flash. This feels like it was eviscerated in the editing room; cut from a 140 minute character study to a leaner crowdpleaser that undermines the complexities both laudable and contemptible concerning P. T. Barnum.
As a non-fan of Michelle Williams whitebreadness, every now and then she comes with a quiet-yet-fierce performance ready to make me change my mind. But even in a circus so full of freaks, it just wasn't there.
THE GREATEST SHOWMAN:
Completely eschews cinema for escapism while at once displaying the meters of a scripted film: 3 acts, conflict, development, climax, resolution, motifs, social commentary, etc
90min Suspension Of Disbelief=90 Minutes of fun?
Barnum's character was so unfocused and undeveloped, fatally changed the whole curiosity to Phillip's character. Some parts were so sinetron while the conclusion felt betraying the setup. But in brighter side, the musical numbers were so catchy and entertaining. Still, it should have been much more.
Flawed but wonderfully charming and fulfilling musical, The Greatest Showman is filled with virtue, kindness and genuine feeling. It might not be the 'greatest' show of the year, but it's absolutely deserving of the admission price.