The Greatest Showman is a film you would watch when you want to clear your head on a bad day. Sure, it has all the elements of a Bollywood formula flick, but then, like Phineas (Hugh Jackman) says in the film, you go for a show to find some joy. The storyline is not anything out of the ordinary, but the same cannot be said about the performances. Zendaya on the trapeze is brilliant and so is Keala Settle as the bearded woman, who is the singing voice of the troupe. First-time director Michael Gracey sure does pull off a casting coup with stars like Jackman, Zendaya, Zac Efron and Michelle Williams in one frame.
The story begins with a typical plot of forbidden love, with a poor boy falling for a rich girl. The plot follows the highs and lows of Phineas’s life well, but at no point do you connect with him or his sentiments. The plot line feels slightly rushed, especially since it is a musical. In comparison, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Moulin Rouge! got a little more than 120 minutes.
Phineas is sure that Philip’s (Zac Efron) inclusion is essential to his museum, but not very clear as to how they will benefit from the partnership. The insatiable Phineas, as a character, follows a good arc and carries the film on his shoulders. This doesn't mean the other actors weren’t great; they were simply under-utilised. Perhaps if some prominent characters like Zac Efron’s or Zendaya’s had a bit more of a back story like Anne Hathaway’s Fantine did in Les Miserables, one would feel more empathetic towards them. Or maybe even covering an important point like how could Phineas turn a bunch of ‘freaks’ into performers with very little effort, would have done it.
The fact that Jackman’s character is shown to be a visionary, managing to bring together people of all sizes, shapes and colour, does put you in a feel good mood. It could very well be called ‘celebrating life’ like the critic in the film Bennett (Paul Sparks) says. Though inspired from the real-life founder of the circus, the reel version diverts quite a bit from the real story.
Director of Photography Seamus McGarvey has done a brilliant job of showcasing an old world circus tent and stage for performance. The makeup is another highlight of the film.
The three Golden Globe nominations—best film, best performance by Hugh Jackman and original soundtrack This is me—are well deserved. Surely, a one-time watch but I do wish The Greatest Showman got more screen time (rather than just 105 minutes) for the talent and budget it pulled in for the show.
Film: The Greatest Showman
Director: Michael Gracey
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Zedanya, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron