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The Greatest Showman

Christmas Day 2018 "Cinema Stephanie" (blogette Vol, I, issue 3)

Greetings of the season to movie buffs and more,

"The noblest art is that of making others happy."

(Phineas Taylor Barnum aka P.T. Barnum)

If the above statement is indeed attributable to the famed P.T. Barnum (PTB), impresario and promoter of the circus in America in the 19th century, then the filmmakers of "The Greatest Showman" (20th Century Fox, 105 min., first time director Michael Gracey at the helm with star of the picture Hugh Jackman producing) have succeeded with a film that evokes joy, along with appropriate pathos, and was the perfect choice for Christmas Day. A mostly "feel good" movie that has a lot of vitality.

That the story diverts greatly from facts of Barnum's life is another discussion, and for this writer while accurate details of a life depicted are important, what matters more is the artistry of this film as an "interpretation" of his life. A frequent occurrance in Hollywood's version history (too many examples to list, though link below for BG on PTB). I hadn't read much about its genesis, however it reminded me slightly of the avant garde attempt with "Moulin Rouge" (Baz Lurman, director, 2001) and recalled "La La Land" (2016) that it turns out was the same songwriting/composing team.

Presenting a 19th century story with hip tunes and choreography shakes up the screen and also reminiscent of the latest Broadway musical "Hamilton." A lot of dramatic license is taken to present something so entertaining and though one would hope for the facts of a life or historical time to be accurate, it's provocative none the less and stimulates one to learn more about the true story.

Suffice to say Hugh Jackman as Barnum is dynamic and convincing. He's an amazing talent to appreciate. Michelle Williams as love of his life (wife Charity) also shines as do Zac Efron (as Philip Carlyle) and Zendaya (as trapeze artist Anne Wheeler).

The amazing unique characters, e.g "General Tom Thumb", in the museum/circus are exotically attractive as was a la mode of the era. We must refrain from "judging" as is the current tendency to evaluate from a contemporary perspective, rather appreciate what was part of the popular culture of its day. Barnum catapulted the "characters" who had often been rejected or abandoned and made them "stars" of the show, lauded in their own right and earning money beyond what they would have if left in obscurity to be ridiculed and denigrated.

Take the family, take a date, go solo as I did, and then see for yourself. And keep in mind it's not a "bio pic" rather inspired by Mr. Barnum's ethos and verve.

Thus, I can recommend the movie and would l like to know how you the audience respond.

Happy new year and see you at the movies!


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