The Greatest Showman hits most of the right notes

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The Greatest Showman hits most of the right notes

Cinematographer: Seamus McGarvey

Cinematographer: Seamus McGarvey

Cinematographer: Seamus McGarvey

Zaynab Hossain

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Bearded ladies and gents, boys and girls, politicians and painters, everyone gather ’round for a roller coaster chock-full of flashy outfits, perfectly shaped eyebrows, and catchy sing-alongs known as director Michael Gracey’s new hit musical The Greatest Showman as it follows the story of P.T. Barnum (played by Hugh Jackman) a century and a half ago and his journey to fame and success.

Jenny Bick and Bill Condon’s screenplay took us on a ride that had the audience captivated throughout the entire running time. 105 minutes, however, wasn’t really enough time to capture the story completely. This is the type of movie that when the credits start rolling, you’ll be left wondering where the rest of the movie went.

Barnum as a character is dazzling, a singer and dancer with a big, disarming smile and enough charm to land him the spot as Sexiest Man Alive. We should praise him, idolize him, make little shrines in the back room honoring him. After all, he did make a fortune by exploiting his group of misfits. P.T. Barnum isn’t a very compelling character. Stripping away all the details shows he’s just another white guy who built his success on the backs of others and is more interested in respect than the people around him. It’s difficult to sympathize with a rich guy who’s still feeling unsettled because a critic doesn’t speak highly of him.

The main problem with this movie isn’t the way Barnum is placed up on a throne. It’s that Barnum never should have been the main character to begin with. The only thing in the way of The Greatest Showman becoming a great movie is it’s point of view. This shouldn’t have been P.T. Barnum’s movie. It should have been the trapeze artist’s movie. Or the Bearded Lady’s movie. Or Tom Thumb’s movie. Those characters are so much more rich and metaphorically colorful. Their stories are so much more worth diving into. A story about being pulled out from the shadows by a con man and celebrated for their uniqueness is one that would be memorable for sure. If rather than the hero Barnum was the charming villain or a supporting character, The Greatest Showman could have been one of the best musicals in years.

There is an amazing movie here that made me cry more than a few times in 105 minutes about inclusion and the differences in people. There’s a number in the middle of the movie featuring the Golden Globe nominated song “This Is Me,” as performed by Keala Settle (who plays the Bearded Lady), that may have been my favorite song of the year. It was so profoundly powerful, Barnum was momentarily forgotten. Zac Efron and Zendaya (as Philip and Anne) have a duet “Rewrite the Stars” that is choreographed and sung beautifully. Hugh Jackman performed his character terrifically, the only issue was the script he was made to memorize. Moving the characters’ roles around a bit would have gotten a musical that would have stayed in everyone’s minds all year. The Greatest Showman is a very troubling movie, but The Bearded Lady? I’d pay to see that again.