My sister went to see The Greatest Showman a few days ago. She came back and would not stopped raving about it. This surprised me because critically and commercially the film has had a fairly average response. However, as the days went on, several of my peers told me that its great and so feel good. When my Mum told me that it was a cross between La La Land and Moulin Rouge, I was sold. Well I just got back, and two of those statements are true! (while I see where my Mum was coming from, it’s not that similar to Moulin Rouge).
Let’s start with the good bits, and look no further than the soundtrack! The songs are very well written and very uplifting (if a little commercial). Most importantly, however, is that unlike the abysmal car-crash that was 2017’s Beauty and The Beast, the cast can actually sing! I didn’t hear any robotic auto-tuning, the true beast in Disney’s remake. Instead, all the cast sing properly and bring a lot of talent to a very feel good soundtrack. Crucially, the film makers realised that Rebecca Fergusson would not have been able to sing the song given to her character, and therefore used another voice for her singing. While this seems questionable, it is admirable that they chose in favour of a good performance rather than using an actress that would not have sung as well as was needed (again, looking at you Emma Watson).
I also really enjoyed the style of the film. It is very clear that most of it was CGI, with whole environments being, and often looking, a totally fake. However, in the film Barnum’s critic asks Barnum if he’s bothered that everything he is selling is fake. Barnum replies “did the smiles look fake” and I think that sums it up. It is fake, it is commercial and it is desperate to win the audience over. But just like Mamma Mia, I was sold hook, line and sinker. While the film is much better than Mamma Mia, I think the argument is the same. Sometimes I just want to go to the cinema and forget the woes of today, and this film let me.
That’s not to say, however, that the film is not without its flaws. Most crucially, it certainly does not deal with the morality issue very well at all. Barnum was often quite selfish in his character, and his treatment of the “freaks” is often questionable. I did find myself surprised that in todays ‘P.C’ climate, the film was still happy to make several blows at those who are ‘different’ and ‘unique’. Though this did ruin the enjoyability of the film slightly, I think it is notable that they did put in a song (This Is Me) that celebrates uniqueness and expressing who you are.
It’s certainly not the greatest show, and doesn’t come close to the fast-paced, stylish brilliance that is Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge. However, for pure fun escapism, it didn’t but a foot wrong.