My sister dragged me out to see The Greatest Showman the other week, and I am SO glad she did; I unashamedly adore it, and we even went back to see it again together a week later (by which time I’d practically memorised the soundtrack, which I actually went home and bought after the first viewing; I haven’t bought music since, like, 2003).
It’s a fairly superficial take on the importance of diversity and equity, and although it’s not unproblematic (it is, quintessentially, yet another film about a white guy getting woke off the back of POC, disabled people, and other minorities), for the vast majority of movie-goers it reads as a positive, upbeat take on inclusion (carefully described as ‘inspired by’ rather than ‘based on’ the life of P.T. Barnum, who, if you’ve been living under a rock like me, was the inventor of the modern circus, and who by most accounts was a pretty unpleasant, exploitative fellow) – a message that, apparently, is still sorely needed in 2018.
The film is also a no-holds-barred, totally-unashamed, glitzy, glorious musical, with all that that entails. The song-and-dance numbers are to die for (and responsible for my second viewing) if you’re into contemporary-pop faux-hip-hop dance-floor song-and-dance, which I totally am. Think like a Step Up kind of vibe. It’s totally anachronistic for the film, which is purportedly set in the mid-1800s, and when the ‘opera singer’ performs a 21st C-style inspo piece, I can definitely understand why this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. However, a lot of the themes of the film revolve around the idea of the circus being ‘fake’ entertainment (as distinct from plays and opera, apparently) that can nevertheless inspire genuine happiness, so in a way, the film is actually being quite meta: it’s an anachronistic, faux-historical, fairly shallow*, glitzy inspo film–a ‘fake’, if you will–that has, nevertheless, inspired a lot of genuine happiness and good will.
So: it’s not without its issues, but by golly can the cast sing and dance and make you feel glorious while they do. I’ve no doubt my complete obsession with the soundtrack will continue well into the year <3
(Clip is a tiny bit spoilerish but nothing you couldn’t figure out from a good look at the advertising posters, and BY GOLLY IF ANYONE CAN POINT ME TO A LOVE SONG SEQUENCE THAT BEATS THIS, I’LL BE HERE WAITING. <3 <3 <3 #ZacAndZendayaForLife)
(Gnurgh they took the full clip down from YouTube which, okay, fair enough, but urgh, so sad. Here’s a snip of it instead.)
* SPOILERS – From a thematic angle, the MC never actually stands up for the minorities he claims to be elevating; the bullies just all kind of dissipate into the background, which means that also from a story-structure angle, the ending lacks the emotional impact that just one short scene of the MC confronting the bullies/standing up for his people would have engendered. Annoying, simple to have fixed, but there we have it. The *real* hero of the film is Effron’s character, who does stand by his chosen people and doesn’t desert them to go off galavanting in search of fame and glory. #MyNotSoHumbleOpinion