I knew I wanted to see The Greatest Showman as soon as I saw the adverts: I love musicals, I love Hugh Jackman, and it just looked totally up my alley. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the fact the story was based around P.T. Barnum, who by all accounts was pretty awful. I read a few initial reviews which objected to the fact the story had been ‘Disney-fied’, but that didn’t necessarily put me off: a truly accurate story would have been depressing!
Before seeing the film, I listened to the soundtrack once. I debated for a long time about whether to go into the film completely blind, but to be honest I just couldn’t resist listening to it! It meant I had some idea about what the songs were saying, so when they came on in the film I wasn’t overwhelmed by the dancing and on screen action without being able to keep up with the words.
From the moment the story opens with Hugh Jackman’s lone voice singing, I was hooked. There were a few actors I was a little nervous about: I know nothing of Zac Efron apart from his High School Musical days (which I’ve actually never seen, maybe I should?), and while Zendaya is gorgeous I thought her character in Spider-Man Homecoming was just a bit boring. I needn’t have worried though: they were both fantastic. The acting and the writing were great, and there wasn’t a single character in the film that I couldn’t empathise with in some way. The plot is, in some ways, the weakest aspect of the film; it’s a little slow at times, and going into it blind, I wasn’t entirely sure where the story was going to go. Looking back at it objectively, the film feels almost like it shouldn’t be as enjoyable as it is, and yet I loved every moment.
The film is gorgeous to look at, from the costumes to the sets, and the choreography and dancing are spectacular. The scene for ‘The Other Side’ is my particular favourite, and despite being an absolute non-dancer I’m incapable of hearing it without tapping my feet at least! As good as the acting, choreography and plot are, it is of course the soundtrack that’s the stand-out feature. The songs range from huge, inspiring and epic group songs to softer, sadder reprises. The vocals are just astounding, with the genuinely awe-inspiring ‘Never Enough’ and ‘This Is Me’ to the softer but no less emotional ‘Tightrope’ and ‘Rewrite the Stars’. It’s impossible to pick a favourite, but after seeing the film, I’ve been listening to the soundtrack pretty much incessantly. Going back to see the film a second time, more familiar with the soundtrack, I loved it even more, and despite my issues with the plot, I was still completely lost in the story.
The reviewers who said the story has been ‘Disney-fied’ are absolutely right: Barnum comes across as a generally good guy. He’s imperfect, and he makes a few very unpleasant decisions, but the overall impression was that Barnum wasn’t a bad guy at heart, and he tried to repair the mistakes he made. In reality, Barnum was exploitative and manipulative. The Greatest Showman, like P.T. Barnum’s circus, is a lie – and that’s okay. While not necessarily historically accurate, the way they portrayed Barnum’s story made for a film that felt uplifting, inspiring, and generally feel good. I do sort of wish they’d chosen to just base the story around a fictional circus instead, but there’s also something quite nice and ironic about the fact such a positive story came out of something so grim in reality.
And now, I’m off to listen to the soundtrack some more and lust after these amazing custom Funko pops (Anne still being worked on at the time of writing). Also to possibly go and see it a third time, because it was awesome.