Saturday, 6 January 2018

The Greatest Showman Film Review

The Golden Globes are this weekend, and of course they are celebrating the best films of 2017, including those films that haven't opened yet in the UK. With the rush of Christmas I didn't get to write a review for all I saw, and pre Christmas was of course Star Wars and The Disaster Artist. And then the amazing Jessica Chastain in Molly's Game, and The Greatest Showman. A big production number served straight after Christmas, directed by Michael Gracey, and starring the talented Hugh Jackman.

P T Barnum begins his life as a lowly born boy, a dreamer with hope, who gets to meet Charity, when her rich father is being fitted by his own tailor father. The two children grow up in love, and although Phin still hasn't made his fortune, the lovely Michelle Williams' Charity marries him and his dreams.

When the depression hits it's like we're back in Kansas, with Oz The Great & Powerful, also starring Michelle Williams, but there seems to be no rainbow. Except one day when Phin loses his job in a bank that goes bust, and rashly appropriates the now worthless ship register. It may come in handy one day. With no job, but a wife and two children to support, Barnum has to start dreaming big if he is going to give them the life he promised. But the family can still dance and sing on the roof with a magical light show. Barnum's great idea is to use the worthless register as collateral for a $10,000 loan to open a museum of curiosities. But when no-one comes the girls suggest that what he needs is live, not stuffed, exhibits.

Barnum needs freaks who will happily take the money to be laughed at. Or laugh with. He finds a tiny but mouthy Tom Thumb, a shy bearded lady with a terrific voice, a dog boy who surely should have been a Wolf Man, a tattooed man, a fat man with extra cushion upholstery and a tall man. Given the added inches with stilts. Not all the exhibits you see are legitimate. But this is spectacle, and people pay to see the show.  He also has Zendaya as trapeze artist Anne Wheeler, with her brother, and she is a candy floss dream. And would you believe the New York Herald's James Gordon Bennett doesn't like it. Played by Paul Sparks who calls it a circus. But that's great publicity for Barnum, and he borrows the wording to present P. T. Barnum's Circus.

The film is foot tappingly jolly, with great dance pieces and glitter and glitz spectacle. But what Barnum craves is respectability, for himself and his family. Charity doesn't care about the trappings of wealth, but when his talented daughter is insulted with peanuts jibes after a ballet recital, Barnum starts thinking even bigger. Zac Efron with a family name comes along as junior partner, Phillip Carlyle, to try and attract the wealthy upper classes. Zac is wickedly handsome and so talented, and is of course attracted to Anne. And who would blame him.

And Phillip's nifty footwork gets Barnum an audience with The Queen of England. The one and only Victoria of course, as we are set in 1850. The whole company arrives in England, and Barnum meets Jenny Lind, the Swedish Nightingale played by Rebecca Ferguson. She shares the same gorgeous bone structure as Michelle Williams. And I knew she was beautiful but didn't know that she could also sing.

This is Barnum's chance to hit the big time, and he invites Jenny to come to New York and perform. She is a huge success and Barnum is besotted. He puts up the money for them to tour the country, but won't make any money until the 41st performance. But the upper classes are paying to see Jenny. It cannot fail. Until he does, or doesn't, spurn her advances, and she quits. With a kiss. Leaving him ruined.

But worse is to come, how much worse could it get!, and the little company are once again sitting in sawdust. But this is Entertainment and the 'Celebration of Humanity' show must go on.

The film was colourful and exciting, with some magical steampunk tailoring by Ellen Mirojnick, who also cannibalised Marchesa and Zuhair Murad's gowns for the Charity and Jenny Lind characters. With additional gorgeous costumes by The Blonds, and Zendaya in crystals. She looked amazing in every scene.

A huge success for Hugh Jackman who has been nominated for his role as Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy at The Golden Globes.

Roll up, roll up to see how this story ends.

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