Ah, the movie musical. Once the choice of matinee viewings and Saturday nights in front of the TV, they’ve evolved over the last decade into something completely mainstream. From the ridiculously good remake of Hairspray in 2007, to the vibrant Mamma Mia, which gets its very own sequel Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again this year, musicals have become the ultimate in escapism.
Following on from his exceptional role in the deeply depressing Les Miserables, everyone’s favourite Australian actor, Hugh Jackman returns to the genre with The Greatest Showman. But is it worth you warming up your vocal chords for?
Inspired (very loosely may I add) by the imagination of P. T. Barnum, The Greatest Showman is an original musical that celebrates the birth of show business & tells of a visionary (Jackman) who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation. The story is simple as we follow Barnum and his family as they rise from the depths of debt to the glitzy world of fame and fortune.
However, looking deeper, this rather poignant tale has special resonance today. In this ever-divided world, it’s message of acceptance and equality is something the majority of us still strive for. Whether it be for those who have suffered from homophobic, racial or any other abuse for simply being ‘different’, The Greatest Showman will take on a new, more emotional meaning.
One of the strongest parts of The Greatest Showman is its cast. Alongside Jackman, we have musical expert Zac Efron, Spider-Man: Homecoming’s Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) and Michelle Williams (All the Money in the World). Every single one of them is outstanding, emoting beautifully over the course of the film but this very much Jackman’s baby (it took nearly 7 years to get the idea to screen) and his performance is one of the best of his career.
I’m going to dedicate this paragraph to Efron, as I feel he’s been given a bit of a rough ride by me and Movie Metropolis in general. With his recent roles in Dirty Grandpa and Baywatch, he was becoming better at taking his shirt off than acting in any great capacity, but he proves in The Greatest Showman that he still has that acting prowess that made him so popular with the High School Musical crowd.
Thankfully The Greatest Showman has some of the best pieces of music in the genre
Barnum is a complex character portrayed with a warmth by Jackman that many of his peers would’ve struggled to emulate. Elsewhere, Keala Settle wows as bearded lady, Lettie. It appears her efforts here haven’t gone unnoticed as her powerful ballad This is Me has been nominated for an Oscar at this year’s awards – and it’s well-deserving of taking the crown. She is absolutely astounding.
The brings us nicely onto the songs. A musical, as its name suggests, lives or dies on the basis of its songs and score, and thankfully The Greatest Showman has some of the best pieces of music in the genre. There isn’t a single dud in the track listing with Rewrite the Stars, performed by Zac Efron and Zendaya, and the aforementioned This is Me, sang by Keala Settle being highlights. It’s fair to say that you’ll be clapping and singing along in no time.
Pacing is also one of the film’s strongest suits. Zipping along at only 105 minutes, The Greatest Showman doesn’t mess about in throwing song after song at the audience and this is more than welcome. First-time director Michael Gracey’s shot choices are rudimentary but colour leaps off the screen throughout and the cinematography really benefits from his more static filming style.
It’s testament to the talents of Hugh Jackman and this phenomenal cast that nearly two months after the film’s theatrical release, people are still flocking to see The Greatest Showman in cinemas across the globe. And it’s easy to see why. From start to finish, it is an absolute joy to watch. With a cracking set of songs, created by La La Land’s Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and stunning performances by each member of the cast, it’s an absolute treat for the whole family to enjoy and my first five-star film of 2018.