Director: Michael Gracey
Release Date: 26th Dec 2017 (20th Century Fox)
Running Time: 105 minutes
I’ve let my thoughts brew and now I need to talk about The Greatest Showman.
As I write this post, I’m also listening to the soundtrack. It’s the first thing I discovered. The whole soundtrack was released in October, with strong anthem tunes with modern twists – songs that seek your attention and suck you into the world of performance.
Hugh Jackman carries the movie as P.T Barnum (and with the amount of times he’s introducing himself you won’t forget his name). The track order is the order that the music appears in the film and, right off the bat, my hands started sweating when ‘The Greatest Show’ started banging out of the speakers. Belting songs? Check. Eye dazing colour? Check.
After P.T Barnum is made redundant, he takes it on as his mission to find a job that will allow him to give his family everything. Be gone with their tiny apartment and their cement concrete roof top. He buys a museum in hopes to spark the publics curiosity but he soon learns what excites him, doesn’t always amaze others. Barnum’s daughter sleepily murmurs that he needs to find people with oddities and put them on show. And that’s what he does, with the wonderful cast including Zac Efron, Michelle Williams and Zendaya – they’re triple acts that you hate.
The soundtrack is brought to us from the duo, Pasek and Paul, who wrote the songs in La La Land, a much loved film. I should mention I hated La La Land so was surprised about how right The Greatest Showman soundtrack is. It’s a damn good jolly soundtrack. A musical theatre sort of soundtrack. Strong beats, lots of percussion and a range of vocals – with Hugh Jackman and his musical background (previously playing Jean Valjean in Les Mis, 2012), expectations couldn’t be higher regarding the film. And although it seemed Jackman struggled with the modernised songs, he’s enthusiasm pulls him through (along with the rest of the cast).
But there’s only so much the cast can carry and when it comes down to the overall storyline of the film… there isn’t one. It practically doesn’t exist. First lesson you learn when mapping any story: montages don’t work one after another. They are ways to give a glimpse into a framed amount of time and ease transitions. A cheat way out of a complicated situation.
So what do we get in The Greatest Showman? A string of montages with songs in between each bit of action for some added ‘wow’ – and even some of the songs included montages! The time frame the movie spans is huge, which is the downfall as they try to cover too much but also not a lot. It’s action, action, action and no character depth or development. I felt more detached from the film as it progressed and it seemed to constantly climb – lacking in any huge conflict. The conflict in the film are all small speed bumps that are sorted out in one sweep
The highlights are the music numbers, playing out like high production music videos – with a few cringe transitions. It’s not difficult to imagine it on stage.
Michelle Williams, who plays the wife Charity Barnum, glides through the film and I adore her song ‘Tightrope‘ more now that it has a little more context around it.
The sub-plot, with the ‘intense staring’ romance between playwright Phillip Carlyl (Zefron) and acrobat Anne Wheeler (Zendaya) is developed so poorly. They had no dialogue with one another other than their number ‘Rewrite the Stars’ which is beautifully choreographed but enough for them to start a full-fledged romance? I don’t think so.
Let’s also mention the famous European opera singer, Jenny Lind, who P.T Barnum is mesmerised by. When she takes centre stage, she opens her mouth and opera is not sung. Can we just. You bring an opera singer into the storyline and she doesn’t sing opera when in the spotlight?
It’s all bright colours, glitzy performances but a movie? Stick to the soundtrack, maybe scout out the music videos once the hype dies down.