After seven long years of waiting for someone to take a risk on telling the story of Phineas Taylor Barnum, Hugh Jackman proved himself ready to portray the part for a film he wasn’t sure would ever be made.
As a young boy, P.T. Barnum lost his father and grew up an orphan struggling to make ends meet. Barnum knew he had to make do with what little he had, so he did.
Barnum wanted nothing more than to prove himself a success. He channels this ambition through the desire to impress the love-of-his-life’s father, who comes from an affluent, wealthy family. Her family always looked down on people like Barnum and he could not stand the shame.
“The Greatest Showman” tells the story of how an innovator like Barnum created what would eventually become famously known as the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus.
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This circus held shows for 146 years performing what they called the “Greatest Show on Earth.” They closed May 2017, only months before the film premiered, which brought it to the public’s attention.
The film illustrates that “human curiosities” attracted audiences to the circus because they were not likely to witness them elsewhere. Acts included a bearded lady with a beautiful voice and an adult male who stood close to three feet.
The critic who comes to view their shows often gives poor reviews but seems to respect the message the show incorporates.
“But putting folks of all kinds on stage with you, all colors, shapes, sizes, presenting them as equals,” he explained later to Barnum. “Another critic might have even called it a celebration of humanity.”
Whether it is himself or his acts of talent, Barnum shows the possibilities of becoming whoever you want to be. As human beings, we are meant to look out for one another and work together, not always alone.
“No one ever made a difference by being like everyone else,” P.T. Barnum says in the film.
The song “This is Me” perhaps most powerfully embraces this cry for acceptance. Led by Keala Settle as Lettie Lutz, also known as “The Bearded Lady,” this song is an anthem for anyone who feels like they don’t belong in a place where they can and should be welcomed.
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The sensational soundtrack includes an additional 10 original songs written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who wrote the Academy-Award winning soundtrack for La La Land (2016).
Not only does the film embrace the life of one of the greatest showmen to ever live, it is also one of the greatest films I have had the opportunity to see in a long time.
Barnum had one hell of an imagination, and the story told through this film shows us that, but through a much more family-friendly lens. People recognize the thin line he created between reality and fiction.
If you like the story you see when you watch this movie, I highly suggest learning more about the life of P.T. Barnum, his “human curiosities” and the history of the greatest show on Earth.
Like any great story, Barnum has his highs and lows as he learns to make sense of the wild life he lives. So whether you are a musical-theater fanatic, cinephile or simply enjoy a good show, “The Greatest Showman” is one film to watch for all.