P.T Barnum (Hugh Jackman) want’s nothing more than to succeed in life, but with one risky project after another, he and his family couldn’t be at worse ends. However, when a new museum comes up for sale Barnum sees a new life. Through growth and despair, we follow Barnum as he becomes the biggest name in entertainment, creating a legend left in history.
Before heading in to watch Hugh Jackman’s passion project I was ready to be disappointed, sad at Hollywood’s cashing in on musicals after ‘La La Land’ and overall under-whelmed. So you can imagine my surprise when I exited the cinema after two hours completely spell-bound, a smile on my face and every tune already stuck in my head. It really is quite a surprise of modern cinema (if we avoid the obvious hideous things P.T Barnum had also done, which definitely were not shown in the film).
Starting off with a wistful tune about growing up in love with someone far outside your circles, you straight away get the feeling this is a film designed to put smiles on your face and not challenge any kind of cinema cliché. What I loved about the beginning of this film was the sheer joy it jumped straight in to, singing and dancing on the (questionably computer generated) rooftops. From there we leap into a story of imagination, rolling rhythms and meanings of forgiveness and more than anything, acceptance.
Within this film, we follow Jackman’s Barnum through a torrid rollercoaster, as all he wants to do is succeed and take his family out of the poverty and dead-ends they appear in, no matter how accepting and loving Michelle Williams Charity Barnum is. He continues to take risks, his biggest (and the whole premise of the film) relying on the purchase of an old museum of peculiarities. At first, it doesn’t grab an audience, something some viewers may feel similarities with as we start to know where this is all going to go, no success, anger and probably a disappointment, however, it ends up thriving. Due to some scouting, we quickly meet some new human peculiarities that Barnum, whilst in real-life promoting a tad too far, uses to make a buck but also improve their lives. Jackman plays this in a way that you can see Barnums true love, to not just display these people but give them a second chance and the love they deserve, especially Keale Settle’s Lettie Lutz who steals the show with her belter of a song ‘This Is Me’, which is surely a shoe-in for an Oscar? From here we do of course reach the inevitable low, but with song after song taking us forward you are by this point lost to the film and completely involved. Who knew a kiss in a film could make you gasp in modern cinema?
Without a doubt, throughout this film, you can practically feel the love Hugh Jackman has for his passion project and every element of it, with every movement so enthused and full of life. Sometimes passion projects can flop and turn out as just a script one actor or director loves, other times it can be something quite special and for me, this is what The Greatest Showman was.
Musicals can sometimes alienate audiences, presenting too much of the storyline via song and dance and not enough through more mellow moments. For me, The Greatest Showman’s success is based around this. It doesn’t stuff the script full of music, or make every line a note, but simply puts a few songs in at key moments that work so well that you leave the cinema with a memory of every key point of plotting. Without doubt The Greatest Showman was a late surprise of a film for 2017, while some may find it cheesy and overdone, others, like myself, may just get lost in it and fall in love with musicals all over again (La La Land may have got there first to be truthful though). All in, a marvellous piece of entertainment.
Hugh Jackman’s passion project becomes a surprise beauty of 2017, leaving you both smiling and with every song in your head. A simple joy.