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What's Right and Wrong With 'the Greatest Showman' (Film Review)

Is it the greatest show?

'The Greatest Showman" (20th Century Fox)

The songwriters behind the award winning La La Land helped create a new musical that brought the "true story" of P.T. Barnum to the big screen. The Greatest Showman chronicles the rise of his circus acts and his desire to be to be famous. It also just slightly presents the struggles the performers go through because they are different. So, how well were those stories told? Was this movie the greatest show on earth? Let's take a look.

What the Film Did Right:

If you're going to make a musical, the songs have to be memorable. Luckily, The Greatest Showman delivers on that. The music was the film's greatest strength. Keala Settle was the break out star as the bearded lady singing the super popular hit "This Is Me." The other songs such as "From Now On" and "The Greatest Show" were a pleasurable sucker punch to the ears. I also loved the emotional ballads like "Never Enough."

The acting was on par with the music. Hugh Jackman is as charming as usual, and if any movie can show that Zendaya more than a former Disney star, it is this movie. She shines as Anne Wheeler, the acrobat, and love interest of Zac Efron. Speaking of Zac, he fit in well as the business partner to P.T. Barnum. He has come a long way since High School Musical. I guess all those times singing with Gabrielle (Vanessa Hudgens) paid off. It was a surprise to discover Michelle Williams's singing ability. Turns out her vocals are not that bad, and she was delightful as Hugh Jackman's wife. I already mentioned the appeal of the bearded lady, but the rest of the cast of misfits deserve praise for their song and dance prowess. 

The cinematography was stunning, especially in the circus performance scenes, and the costumes were just as eye-catching.I got so caught up in the choreography and performing that felt like I was swept into the film. Each frame leaping off the screen made me feel like a part of the show. 

What the Film Did Wrong:

My guess is that the film did not intend on being historically accurate because it was far from it. Good thing that Hugh Jackman is extremely likable and charismatic, since the real P.T. was not quite as well liked. The onscreen Barnum did right in his need for fame and knack for hoaxes. Most of the circus performers had their quirks enhanced or exaggerated to garner for paid customers. His most controversial, however, was conveniently left off screen. According to sources, P.T. Barnum bought a slave woman to be paraded around and convinced people she was 160 years old. Her autopsy revealed her real age which was about eighty. Barnum may have been a little sketchy. 

The focused of the story had a missed opportunity. Most of the film was Barnum distancing himself from his circus in favor of opera singer Jenny Lind to please a bigger crowd. It may be his story, but it is a shame that a look into the lives of the circus performers and their struggle with the public was not delved into further. I was definitely expecting to see more of those characters throughout the film. Did they feel exploited? How did they become a family? Those questions were not answered for me.

You can love the film, it's just more of a musical than a biopic. After all, Pocahontas is a beloved Disney movie, and that movie is not historically accurate whatsoever. If the film is made well enough, it can take you on a magical journey, even if the facts are wrong. Despite its flaws, The Greatest Showman is still a very enjoyable flick.

So, what did you think of The Greatest Showman?

Sources: Britannica

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