Alex Reviews "The Greatest Showman"
“Ladies and gents, this is the moment you’ve waited for.” Before these opening words are even sung by Hugh Jackman (Les Misérables, Logan), the tone for this film is set by a more modern music than this reviewer expected. That being said, the sooner the audience can set that shock aside, the sooner the joy can begin with the phenomenal opening number, “The Greatest Show,” which almost gives a wink to the audience that says, “We all know this is where this story is leading, but now let’s cover the how.” Covering the life of P.T. Barnum’s life as a tailor’s apprentice to his rise to the man responsible for the life of the circus as we know it until recently.
From charming conman to the world’s greatest showman, the story pulled me into this tale of a man who saw what others couldn’t, wouldn’t, or violently refused to. Jackman is reminiscent of his multifaceted turn in The Prestige, in which he covers the gamut of plucky hero all of the way through antagonist. And trust me, that is not a misprint: the titular character becomes his own biggest enemy for a brief, but unsurprising turn. As they say, no conflict means no story as Philip Carlyle (Zac Efron, returning to his musical roots) comes into his life during the “dark times,” providing what may be the best song-and-dance routine of recent memory in which Barnum pitches “running away to join the circus” to Carlyle.
No film is perfect, but the worst that can be said about this picture is that some of the direction proves to be amateurish with poor framing and timing. One of my personal pet peeves pops in as Rebecca Ferguson’s character Jenny Lind is repeatedly referred to as an opera singer, but she doesn’t sing in that manner. Why not just remove the opera designation? If the suggestion is that Ms. Ferguson cannot sing opera, then that would not apply as she is the only cast member who does not perform her own numbers!
OK. Done venting.
There is a crystal clear reason The Greatest Showman is getting attention from awards season, because it deserves the recognition. It would be a shocker if any Best Picture awards happened, but Jackman is a moderate contender for Best Actor. Aside from that, this movie should absolutely win for Best Original Song, as “This Is Me” can tell as great of a story in just under four minutes as most in any medium. Keala Settle (Ricki and the Flash) leads the dynamic track as no other could. Independent of its performance, it has the potential to make the team of Benj Pasek & Justin Paul back to back Oscar winners after taking home the hardware from their work on La La Land last year.