Film review: The Greatest Showman

Linda Marric enjoys a 'brilliantly bonkers' musical


Over seven years in the making, and even longer as Hugh Jackman’s personal passion project, The Greatest Showman has finally made it to our screens, and is every bit as big, loud and brilliantly bonkers as you would imagine a musical about America’s first pop-culture impresario would be.

First-time director Michael Gracey offers an exhilarating spectacle in this spellbinding production which will either enchant or completely puzzle its audiences, depending on whether they are willing to get on board with this truly unique experience. From its up-tempo modern soundtrack, right down to its well-rounded all-singing all- dancing cast, The Greatest Showman is as old fashioned in its narrative structure as it is innovative in its direction and, for that reason alone, one should be glad that it even exists in the way it does in an age where very few risks are being taken.

Inspired by the life of P T Barnum (played by Hugh Jackman) of Barnum & Bailey Circus fame, The Greatest Showman tells the rags to riches story of a trailblazing figure in show-business who managed to capture the imagination of people on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond. Mostly famed for his three-ring circus extravaganza, Barnum later became a household name, first as one of America’s first self-made millionaires, and later as a revered politician.

Staring Zac Efron as PT’s younger associate Phillip Carlyle, and Zendaya as Carlyle’s love interest, the film is a fast-paced production held together by a brilliantly complex soundtrack. Riffing on a very catchy leitmotif, think City of Stars in La La Land, composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul manage to bring a real sense of familiarity to the proceedings by offering some beautifully melancholic tunes which you’ll find very hard to shake off.

No stranger to musicals, both Efron and Jackman put in two of the most robust performances of their lives.

Dancing, singing and acting their socks off, the duo are not only able to garner a huge amount of sympathy towards their characters, but also manage to brilliantly convey a refreshingly uncynical retelling of a story that not many people would have been familiar with.

Putting in a touching, if a little subdued performance as Barnum’s long suffering wife Charity, Michelle Williams is relied upon to bring a certain amount of sober resolve to the proceedings, while Zendaya steals almost every single scene she’s in as Anne Wheeler.

Her depiction of her character’s quiet passion for Carlyle, coupled with her musical prowess, goes a long way into cementing her reputation as one of the most accomplished performers of her generation.

While Gracey doesn’t always manage to hit the right note in this genuinely likeable production, the story itself has so much heart that you will find yourself forgiving even some of the most ludicrously facile plot-lines. A refreshingly adventurous, if not always perfect production that is definitely worth your while if you’re willing to ignore its obvious flaws.

‘The Greatest Showman’ is in cinemas nationwide from December 26

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