The Greatest Showman – 19/20

*** If you don’t know or are confused about how I score movies, please take a look at my Rating System***

The first part of this is spoiler free. After the Rating I will discuss certain details of the movie that will be spoilers.

I am just going to preface this with- Go see it. Now. I know there are a lot of movies out. Star Wars. Jumanji. Pitch Perfect. But this is worth a ticket. Even if you don’t like musicals.

SYNOPSIS
Celebrates the birth of show business, and tells of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation.

Rating

Acting- 3/3
Music- 3/3
Writing- 2/3
Characters- 3/3
Importance- 3/3
Visual Effects- 2/2
Storytelling- 3/3
Total – 19/20

In the first 5 minutes of the movie I had already decided that I would buy it as soon as it came out. I have to admit, I teared up during it. I have a tendency to cry when I am blown away. I have cried at the Intro of every Broadway musical I have seen live. Doesn’t often happen when watching the silver screen, though. Granted, the intro is incredibly impressive. And speaking of that, I might as well start with music-

Music-
OK, I don’t know what I was on when I wrote that, but the music is AMAZING. I am in love with ALL OF IT (except one song which bores me). I think my problem is I have a hard time understanding the human voice. And the first two times I saw the movie I just couldn’t hear the lyrics. But they are SO AMAZING for ALL the songs.
The intro song blew me away. But other than that, I doubt I will be buying the soundtrack. I’m sure others will disagree with me on this. I’m not saying the music was bad by any stretch. In general, it didn’t stand out. Which is also not a bad thing. That meant it fit, and fit well (which is why I think that those who do not like musicals will be ok with this movie). The talent was indeed wonderful. Beautiful voices, all, and that isn’t just lip service. But there were so many other amazing things that drew my attention.

Acting-
Absolutely outstanding. But is anyone really surprised? Hugh Jackman gives his heart and soul into every performance, and loves every minute of it. It is so evident, and so affecting. He can’t help but infect the audience and his fellow cast with that enthusiasm and joy. Zac Efron likewise is a much better actor than most people give him credit for, and known to have a great voice and dancing skills.
Theirs are the big names that will draw people in. But this movie would not work without the talent and beauty from the cast that forms Barnum’s Circus. Yet they owned their roles with a courage and beauty very few actors could. Their emotion made this movie.

Story-
The important part. There is one or two nit picky things I will discuss below in the spoiler section. But overall, this is a story that needs to be told. I know it is not historically accurate. I know Barnum did a great deal of unethical things, and was not the good man we see on screen. But it is ok that his character was reinvented for this film.
Sometimes we need to be starkly reminded of the horrible things in our past and even present. Sometimes we need to be uplifted and inspired to do better.
Somehow, this movie strikes a perfect balance between the two.
I spent a good half of this movie in tears. Sometimes happy tears. Sometimes overwhelmed by the power and emotion tears. Sometimes broken-hearted tears. And all of it made the movie that much the better.

***SPOILERS****

This is where I will discuss in detail things I love, things I would fix, etc.

I do have one complaint about the movie. We’ll start with the bad, since there is just the one thing: Barnum never apologizes to his performers for being ashamed of them. A missed opportunity, a missed lesson, and a missing sense of completeness. He draws these people into the light. He tells them not to be ashamed, and to own and love who they are. But then as he starts to crave society, he becomes ashamed to associate with them because he loses sight of what is important in chasing fame and society. Then he loses everything and his circus lifts him up and convinces him to carry on and we have a happy ending. Barnum never once owns up to the fact that he tried to shove them back into the shadows to help his own reputation. It bothers me. But that is pretty much the only thing.

There were so many little great things in here. I’m sure they are all fictional, but they warm the heart. Like discovering the origin of the term “Circus”, the tent. Hearing what is implied to be the first time someone ever said “Run away to the Circus.” This attention to detail in the writing all helped make this movie a very complete experience.

But here is what I really want to express-
I suspect there is a part of me that, even if I were to quit teaching tomorrow, would always see the world, and media, with a teacher’s eye. I can’t help it. After seeing this movie I would like to tell my students to go see it because this movie shows segregation and discrimination in a unique light, with unique comparisons.
We have come a long ways, in terms of discrimination. Not far enough, but a long way. The truth is, many of the “Circus Freaks” portrayed so beautifully and humanely in this film would still be discriminated against and ostracized from our society today. Not all of them. But definitely some of them. And even if many of us accept them, it would have to be a conscious choice to do so.
In my class we have just started going over the Harlem Renaissance and will soon read “A Raisin in the Sun”. I believe this movie would beautifully help them understand the extend of discrimination, segregation, and hatred of Black people there was in the time period. Because amidst all those “Freaks” the thing that caused the most tension and hatred of Barnum’s Circus was the fact that he put two Black trapeze artists on stage. Two gorgeous and athletic artists were hated more than everyone else, simply because of the color of their skin.
(Please don’t take this the wrong way and assume I mean that the other performs should be hated more. It’s just that we are studying racism right now, and that particular aspect is more relevant to the literature we are about to read.)

This movie was beautiful, important, and humane. A rarity, coming out of Hollywood.

 

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