Tuesday, 2 January 2018

The Greatest Showman

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Following on from the unprecedented success of La La Land, we have another musical gracing the big screen. Featuring new songs from the same composers as the aforementioned film - Benj Pasek and Justin Paul - the film takes on the well known story of P. T. Barnum, the visionary promoter who created the modern day circus full of oddities, curiosities and amazements.

Hugh Jackman plays Barnum with great aplomb, a role he was born to play and coveted for several years having followed it from inception to production over a seven year period.  Barnum was a down at heel, jack of all tradesman who took an opportunity and sold himself to banks and the people he exploited for his gain.  That is telling that Barnum, like other self-made men in American history (think Henry Ford, Tucker, even Donald Trump) they have this self-belief and drive to make the most of a bad situation and damn to the consequences.

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The film follows Barnum from his youth where his first and only love Charity (Michelle Williams in adult life) is from an upper class family and that the things he promises to her will be gone if he cannot supply a stream of income to a life she is more accustomed to.

There follows Barnum's wheeling and dealing initiating the works of the freaks and outcasts to his show and how the audience eats it up; he is shut out by theatre critics and ostracised by society of New York who consider him a laughing stock and treat his cast with disdain and fear.

Michael Gracey directs the film (in his debut feature) with great relish, instigating some great set pieces from the bar duet between Barnum and his business partner, Philip Carlyle (Zac Efron) 'The Other Side' to the scene stealing 'Come Alive'.

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While the film may take on board current day affairs such as identity and gender politics - all ages, races, shapes and sizes are conveyed in Barnum's troupe - the film is a winner because it embraces the outsider and the underdog who fights to be heard and ultimately are.

That is the beauty of most musicals, it follows the downtrodden on their journey and watch out as they endeavour to be heard.  Pasek and Paul have written a great crossover hit in 'This Is Me', one that shall be heard at countless talent show auditions and is struck in the same vein as Sia or Lady Gaga.

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When watching the film, the trailers before hand were of The Post, Darkest Hour and Phantom Thread; prestige films but dark and grey in compositions.  The greatest feat of the Greatest Showman is that it is a film full of vibrancy, joy and life; too often you have to find films of colour and excitement within a comic book adaptation or animation, a film like this should be embraced and loved for being exactly that.

The Greatest Showman is out now on general release.

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