Michael Gracey’s film on the life P.T. Barnum might have taken a while to reach the screens – but it has more than proven worth the wait.
It is so heartening to see the return of musicals to the big screen and what is more a musical with original music and a story based on the life of P.T. Barnum that despite its historical setting has a powerful relevance for audiences in 2018.
Michael Gracey’s charming and entertaining film is filled with wonderful characters and heartwarming moments that bring a genuine tear to the eye – not least the scene when P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman) begins to hire those who are different for his show: the hopefulness that shines through the characters eyes is heartwarming to witness.
But it is also not a film that wastes any time getting to the heart of P.T. Barnum’s story and his increasing obsession to make the show bigger and better, skipping through Barnum’s early years at quite a pace that perhaps doesn’t help develop the audience’s understanding of Barnum’s insecurities about himself.
However, what the film is extraordinarily good at is making the story relevant for audiences today by featuring characters that they can relate to – mainly those who have never “fitted in” with society and showing how discrimination barriers can be broken down if we have the faith and confidence to make the change happen. The scenes in which Barnum’s cast are attacked verbally and physically by protesters are horribly honest, making the audience question just how far we have come in terms of acceptance. But this contrasted with the crowds visiting Barnum’s show and their reaction to the performance balances the negativity out perfectly.
Musically, some might find the songs slightly more ‘pop music’ like than expected, but the sense of drama and power this unleashes is stunning particularly when put in context of the film. Songs such as ‘The Greatest Show’ pulsates with energy and grabs the attention of the audience automatically, while ‘This is Me’ is a real confidence booster and ‘Never Enough’ is a really perceptive and elegant song. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul with their songs really have managed to capture the spirit and emotional core of the film.
The film has been beautifully filmed – particularly when it comes to focusing on Ashley Wallen’s wonderfully exciting choreography as seen when the cast are performing ‘Coming Alive’ or during ‘The Greatest Show’.
There are some lovely performances from the cast as well. Zendaya as Anne is lovely to watch as her character blossoms from uncertainty and lack of faith in herself to someone who doesn’t care what people think of her as she has found a place where she belongs. Michelle Williams as Charity – Barnum’s ever supportive wife is wonderfully warm to watch as always, while Zac Efron provides great support to Hugh Jackman’s increasingly self-confident and careless if charming portrayal of Barnum.
Overall, this is a genuinely heartwarming and entertaining film that celebrates diversity and dreams of all shapes and sizes. Well worth a watch.
The Greatest Showman is in cinemas now.