I recently posted a movie review by hopetsai regarding the new musical movie The Greatest Showman. This post will my own personal review of the movie as well as a response to the previous post by hopetsai and other reviews I have read.
On December 8, 2017, 20th Century FOX released the new the new hit musical, The Greatest Showman. This movie, while overall has been labeled as a success, has had several very mixed reviews regarding cast, music, and overall plot and characters.
Before I went to see this movie, I will admit I was very skeptical. I had just returned from winter break where I had not heard many positive remarks regarding the film, nor had I heard of anyone who had actually gone to see it in theaters. However, upon arriving on campus, the feel and emotions behind the movie were completely different. Blame it on Northwestern Iowa’s culture, or movie taste, but either way, most everyone I talked to raved about the movie. In fact, the playlist could often be heard from my dorm as somebody, or multiple somebodies for that matter, blasted it through their phone speakers.
So, I finally broke down and went to see this movie. I, like many others, am going to give it a positive review because I have become gradually more an more obsessed with the soundtrack, and I am also currently using it as background music for writing and homework. However, there are a few things that I would like to critique in response to the movie and to other reviews I have read.
First off, I honestly thought the casting and characterization was great. I have been a huge Hugh Jackman ever since I saw him in the movie version of Les Misérables in 2012, and adding in the more modern flavor of Disney Channel star, Zendaya and the High School Musical throwback of Zac Efron’s singing was a nice touch. Their characters add to the movie plot, and, although I have heard some say that Zac Efron’s character was unnecessary, I would have to disagree. My favorite song in the entire film is “The Other Side,” which features Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron, and “Rewrite the Stars” was a necessary song in the movie plot because of the ongoing romance between Zac Efron’s character and Zendaya’s. In addition, the majority of people are more prone to like a film if it contains an element of love or romance, and that particular song captivates this type of audience. The rest of the cast was overall very good and pleasing to viewer. The one character that I found myself resenting throughout the entire film was Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson), however I choose to believe that this is because of the role she played, not her actual acting ability or the director’s casting.
Next, lets talk soundtrack. Obviously, since I am using it as my current writing playlist, I did enjoy it. However, there are a few singles on the soundtrack that I consistently skip whenever they come on.
The first is “Never Enough,” which is performed by the character Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson) in the movie. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that I didn’t enjoy her character throughout the movie, but another aspect of this I find is that the song is overused throughout the movie. In every scene where Jenny Lind appears on stage, she sings this song, and while the first time you hear it, it is remarkable and emotionally- prevoking, throughout the rest of the scenes it is shown in, I find that it gradually loses its luster. I also find that the song is not particularly interesting without the film to go along with it. I did hear the soundtrack several times before I actually saw the film, while many of the other songs on the soundtrack proved to have more meaning to me after seeing the film “Never Enough” oddly had the opposite effect. The song was just not captivating to me without having a screen to watch at the same time, and perhaps that’s a personal preference, but I do find that it is a bit overused throughout the film and not one of the most emotionally-gripping pieces in the film.
Aside from this song, I found the majority of the soundtrack excellent. I must admit that the songs “From Now On” and “This Is Me” do get a bit old when just listening to it on soundtrack versus watching these scenes in the movie. However, I’m going to blame that on my overuse of the playlist, and the lack of inspirational moving images, both of which are not criticisms of the movie.
My two favorite songs from the film are definitely “The Other Side,” which features Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron, and then “The Greatest Show,” which opens the film and captivates the audience from the very beginning. Both songs have the motivational and inspirational factor to make the viewer fall in love with the movie, and also set the scene for the rest of the movie in which it is vital for viewers to want success.
Another song in the movie that is talked about very little is “Tightrope,” which is performed by P.T. Barnum’s wife, Charity Barnum (Michelle Williams). This song, while sad, also promotes a sense of hope throughout the movie. Although the overall movie plot did not favor the relationship between P.T. Barnum and his wife, Mrs. Barnum sings this song as a high road, while viewers can clearly see that Barnum is losing sight of her. Although I dislike the plot later on, where Barnum and his wife are evicted and separated, it adds to the emotional aspect of the movie and creates a drive for Barnum to change his style of business. This song, “Tightrope,” sets the stage for this phase of the movie, and begins the path to the conclusion.
The song “A Million Dreams” is another one of my favorites and I would consider it to be one of the movie’s hallmarks. The song’s theme is seen over and over again throughout the film, and the initial emotions and dreams that are swept up in the progression scenes during the song in the movie really adds depth and characterization to the song. This really helps to add background to the characters of P.T. Barnum and Charity Barnum, setting the knowledge of their roles during the rest of the film. Some reviews I have read stated that they would’ve liked to see more of a realistic struggle in the role of P.T. Barnum during this song. However, I think that the movie did accurately show this, and if the struggle would’ve been more pronounced it may have seemed over-dramatized.
The two critiques that I have for the plot I would probably blame on my pride and massive hatred towards change in movie plot lines. However, I still feel the need to mention them as this is a review and allows room for critiques.
The first is the instant forgiveness shown from Charity when she learns of what her husband has been doing while away on his travels with Jenny Lind. While nothing was going on between the famous singer and the fame-seeker, I did expect a little more fire from Charity Barnum when he returned home, she read and saw the newspaper, they were being evicted from their house, and her husband had turned his back on their family and had neglected to care for almost a month. Although this is a massive part of Charity’s character throughout the film, there was a side of me that wanted her to lash out at Barnum and have that be one of the reasons for his change.
The second plot aspect that I could have done without was the turnover of leadership at the end of the movie. While the scene where P.T. Barnum gives the circus to Philip is a scene of happiness, accomplishment, and reward, my hatred of change would have forbid P.T. Barnum from leaving the circus so quickly. In an ideal conclusion, I would have had the two stay business partners. However, I do know that the film was based partly on a true story and this may have been what happened. Also, I do believe that Zac Efron’s character did deserve it.
Overall, I would rate this movie as a 3.5 out of 5 stars. The majority of the soundtrack was excellent, yet the focus on the character of Jenny Lind and the emphasis on her career would lower the rating.