The Greatest Showman (2017)
Director: Michael Gracey
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron
Synopsis: Celebrates the birth of show business, and tells of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide phenomenon.
Genre: Biography, Drama, Musical
MPAA Rating: PG (for thematic elements including a brawl)
Release Date: December 20, 2017
Success is the premiere driving force in a person's life. Everyone craves it. Not only does it usually lead to a certain level of wealth, but more importantly it creates a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction from knowing the individual accomplished something in their life and made a difference in other people's lives as well. There are, however, costs to success, which usually entail sacrificing the elements of life that are most important--relationships and family.
This tricky notion of balancing success and relationships is explored in The Greatest Showman, a biographical musical drama that showcases the life of P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman), the founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus. The film opens immediately with a familiar picture--a young poor boy (Barnum) dreams of becoming someone bigger than his family could afford to be and seeks to be successful and make a difference in the competitive world we all live in. It is a setup we have seen numerous times in other films, but one that remains vital to viewers, particularly the younger generation.
More than anything, The Greatest Showman celebrates uniqueness, as Barnum sets out to create a business that had never been explored before and incorporates "freaks"--unique individuals--into his shows to draw audiences in. Each of these unique individuals have their own quirks that set them apart from each other and the outside "normal" world. Though their appearances and talents are rather extreme, they still represent any single individual that lives in the outside "normal" society.
On a technical level, the film is slickly edited to coincide with its strong soundtrack, and the cinematography utilizes swift camera movements to capture the dancing choreography in an expert fashion, particularly when Barnum meets Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron) during the track "The Other Side." On the flip side, slower emotional moments are also beautifully captured, as during Jenny Lind's (Rebecca Ferguson) "Never Enough." The film also features beautifully lit scenes, with a standout scene occurring on the rooftop of Barnum and Charity's (Michelle Williams) house near the beginning of the film.
The Greatest Showman features relevant themes and ideas of ambition and success in life, a memorable soundtrack, and strong technical elements and performances to make for a satisfying biographical film on the founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus. Though the film plays things too safe on occasion with its PG rating, the themes still manage to resonate strongly, and the biographical element (artistic liberty aside) raises the film above other fictionalized stories.