Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Movie with Abe: The Greatest Showman

The Greatest Showman
Directed by Michael Gracey
Released December 20, 2017

Though it’s not nearly as prominent as it once was, the circus is a place where people go to enjoy themselves and marvel at things that they don’t usually see. As with many forms of entertainment that are popular today, it wasn’t always the case that the circus was viewed as something that would appeal to the masses, and certainly not to any elite audience that enjoyed opera and the theater. As with every such industry, there is a point in history where something that has never been done before is first tried and puts on its first show to decidedly mixed results.

P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman) grows up as a poor boy in love with Charity (Michelle Williams), who comes from a wealthy family. After he convinces her to marry him, they enjoy a humble, unsophisticated existence until Barnum tries to realize his dream of creating a spectacle that all will come to see. The circus has a rocky opening, and its name comes from a harsh critic who refuses to view what he has created as anything other than the lowest form of garbage. Barnum presses on, determined to make his vision a reality, and the allure of success causes him to ignore what he has already achieved and gained.

This film has a boisterous opening thanks to its musical nature and the inclusion of a strong number to get the action started. Telling this story in this way proves very effective, since it makes the experience fun and energetic, incorporating some great music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who made their mark on “La La Land” last year. What’s less spectacular is the lack of any true circus acts, since the introduction of the performers, seen as freaks and outcast all their lives and now rewarded for the peculiarities with which they’ve been born, suffices as the only real reference to its content. Including death-defying stunts and high-flying tricks might have made this experience all the more enticing.

Jackman is a born entertainer, though he’s hardly the real star of the show here. He portrays Barnum as an idea man, one who leaves the real show to the people he knows can do it best, even as he continues to aim higher, confident that what he presents can cast a wider net if it can evolve from its simple beginnings. The ensemble plays its part well, exhibiting its best work during musical numbers. The presentation of this engaging story is lavish and well-decorated, and the musical format definitely serves to enhance a film whose writing and structure doesn’t otherwise astound.


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