The storyline is as basic as it could get while portraying the good side of an incredible man. The film takes Barnum’s (in)famous believe-it-or-not attractions — Tom Thumb, Dog Boy, Tattoo Man, the Bearded Lady — and transforms them into sensitive enlightened outcasts of a 19h century identity politics. From a woman with a beard singing in her best behavior while wearing a corset to a dwarf playing a general, the film gives wings to imagination, just like Barnum’s life.
The film begins with Barman’s childhood- in tattered clothes and shoes, tending to rich men, only to be left on streets after the demise of his father; two things that never ever leave his side are his dreams and love. Once in a steady job, Barnum goes on to marry his childhood sweetheart, much to the opposition of her rich, aristocratic father. After being dismissed from his job, he starts working on his own aspirations, of hoodwinking people and still bringing joy into their monotonous routine.
There begins a series of events, from starting from scratch and rising to a circle he always wanted to be in, to succumbing to the dark side of success and again rising like a phoenix, only this time, giving priorities to the things that he really ever wants. The film completes a whole circle, assembling everything required for a good musical, in between.
The cast and Benj Pasek, Justin Paul’s original score are the strength of the film. Hugh Jackman as PT Barnum is just magical. Jackman again proves himself as an accountable actor be it a superhuman franchise or a sensitive musical. The way he incorporates Barnum’s glee, impulsiveness and regret is just phenomenal. Zac Efron and Zendaya are a delight to watch, and even though their story might not be the center of the stage, it definitely is the support the plot requires. Michelle Williams as Charity, Barnum’s wife is subtle, vulnerable and the perfect reality to his imagination. She keeps the man and the story grounded.
Hollywood has a flair of cherry-caking every glorious biopic and to be honest it is no different. The struggles, though present, are few, and the focus is mainly on making the show a joyful experience, just like the real man would’ve wanted. The plot had potential to go behind curtains a little more and bring out something freakishly different or more for the brain to invest into, but director Michael Gracey chose to tread the white path instead of grey.
Nonetheless, one and a half hour of the show is nothing short of glorious concoction. The songs have a peppy-pop vibe to it and will linger with you long after you leave the theater. The choreography is equally mesmerizing and you expect nothing less from a film made on the life of a great showman. What’s interesting is the way diversity and identity crisis has been played in the 19th-century frame. Obviously, it’s far from the reality in more aspect than one, but isn’t it the job of a musical to immerse you in your world of perfection and happiness?
For PT Barnum every individual was a star and the makers of The Greatest Showman try to make it true. A screen time full of imagination, brilliant score, immersive plot and happy telling. Just a great show, the man himself would’ve approved. The Greatest Showman is the kind of film where all the pieces click into place, and Jackman’s Barnum changes the world by getting the whole world to believe that.
“The noblest art is that of making others happy”- The Greatest Showman lives up to this quote by Barnum till it’s last beat.