Hugh Jackman Adds Another Feather To His Cap With The Greatest Showman
Most people know him as Wolverine. That rough-around-the-edges bad boy from the X-Men series. But Hugh Jackman fans would most likely include the naïve Leopold (Kate & Leopold), and the proud Robert Angier (The Prestige), as among his most memorable screen personas. Hopefully, they will have the same high regard for another costumed Jackman but this time as creative genius P.T. Barnum in The Greatest Showman.
Phineas Taylor Barnum had dreams. Big ones. But the time he belonged to wasn’t conducive to making them come true. Until, of course, he did. The real-life Barnum that director Michael Gracey based his directorial debut movie on was a true showman.
The movie begins with Barnum all dressed up as the circus master, singing:
Ladies and gents, this is the moment you've waited for (woah)
Been searching in the dark, your sweat soaking through the floor (woah)
And buried in your bones there's an ache that you can't ignore
Those first few lines echo throughout the movie. The original songs by Academy Award® winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (La La Land) emphasize the individual dreams of every character. From grandiose aspirations of being in showbusiness, to true love, to being accepted—the lyrics capture each persona. That each cast member—among them Zac Efron as Barnum’s partner, Phillip; four-time Academy Award®-nominee Michelle Williams as Barnum’s wife, Charity; Rebecca Ferguson as Swedish superstar Jenny Lind and Zendaya as the trapeze artist Anne Wheeler—had strong vocals only contributed to the impressive musical numbers.
The Greatest Showman is all about making dreams come true and what it takes to do that. Passion, support, and humility, to name a few of the essentials. Barnum’s dreams of becoming a showman is shown early on with flashbacks of him as a poor young boy showing a rich young girl the wonders of his imagination.
The movie uses a montage to show their childhood apart, which served to hasten the passing of time and effectively build up to the first climax when Barnum achieves his first dream—marrying the girl, Charity. The energy of Jackman as he dances from scene to scene is unbelievable, and that Williams can keep up is equally laudable. From there, the story takes us from their life of poverty to their life of privilege, and in between that, the humps and bumps that contributed to make him a crucial part of American history.
The movie also touches on the idea of being able to choose one’s family, and how the people close to you allow you to express who you are without reservation. “A big idea in the film is that your real wealth is the people that you surround yourself with and the people who love you,” says Gracey.
There’s a line in the movie that goes ‘No one ever made a difference by being like everyone else.’ This is one of the core values the movie brings forward. The characters’ oddities became the crowbar with which they opened up the box everyone else put them in, enabling them to fully embrace the dreams they were once afraid to have. It wasn’t just about Barnum’s dreams, after all. It was about everyone else’s, and the way they were able to chase those dreams because of the opportunities that Barnum opened for them.
The movie wouldn’t have been complete without the love story between Efron’s character and Zendaya’s. One of the most beautifully choreographed scenes in the film takes place as they were singing “Rewrite the Stars” in the middle of the ring, flying around in a powerful and sensual manner. Their way with the trapeze and the lighting design created just the right drama reflective of what was happening in their relationship. Efron has indeed come a long way from his High School Musical days, pulling off a performance almost as good as Jackman’s, making him worthy of his character which is essentially a Barnum junior.
At the end of the movie, the question it poses to its audience is somewhere along the lines of, ‘what are you willing to do to make your dreams come true?' and by the excited murmurs of the people standing up to leave the cinema, it seems like the movie was able to send its message loud and clear.
All photos courtesy of 20th Century Fox