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Published January 2nd 2018
Escape the world for a couple of hours with this fun movie
In the 1850s to 1860s, a man named P.T. Barnham became a big name in entertainment in the United States. Eventually, the Barnham and Bailey Circus was a huge business and travelled the country with their unusual and bizarre acts. He was interested in the odd and unusual and chose curios and displays and many acts with people who were unique. The tallest, smallest, heaviest, albinos and Siamese twins all found employment and acceptance with Barnham. In those days, these people were hidden away and shunned by society. Also, people in regional areas could not get to big cities to see big shows, so the circus coming to town with such oddities were a big drawcard.
A brilliant Hugh Jackman stars as PT Barnham. Image from foxmovies.com
If it is a historical film you are seeking, you will not find it here. I would say the true storyline has been tweaked somewhat with romanticism and flash Hollywood theatrics. The events in the film are not in chronological order. The true story of P.T. Barnham makes an interesting read on Wikipedia. You can read more of the history of the grand circus in the United States here.
I was not sure I was going to like this movie. A musical sounded boring. However, as I have always loved the circus, I went along with some intrigue. From the start, I sat wide-eyed just like a kid at the circus. Then as the film continued, it captured me with pure escapism.
The movie starts with Barnham as a young boy and with the first song underway, the first twenty years or so quickly passes by. To escape his childhood of poverty and struggle, Barnham becomes a dreamer who learns to reveal the magic, surprise and an element of being shocked. He was a visionary who longed for a bigger and better life and then made them a reality. Suddenly, an adult Barnham, played by Hugh Jackman, bursts onto the screen.
Michelle Williams stars as Barnham's wife, who he meets when they were still children. Image from foxmovies.com
I saw this film on an Extreme screen and the extra width really makes this movie outstanding. No other actor could have played this role as Jackman does. He really is today's all round great showman. An all grown up, Zac Efron does a superb job in a supporting role as Barnham's partner, Bailey. The film only covers their early years together, but the truth is they went on to become a big hit even as America faced tough times, as people longed to escape for even a short while.
The film touches on the social issues of the times such as the bigotry against of minority groups. With Barnham, the employees find a sense of place where they could be proud of who they are. The bearded lady, played brilliantly by newcomer Keala Settle, sings the best song of the movie. The Huffington Post describes her as the real star of this movie. Her solo performance of the powerful song "This Is Me" is spellbinding. I'm sure we will hear more of this song in the future. It would be ideal as an anthem for disabled groups or at sports events.
The music score is not really authentic of the era. The music is modern, but the lyrics do move the viewer. The boom-boom-clap sound recognisable as the introduction to Queen's "We Will Rock You" is modern, but suits the scene of enthusiastic circusgoers and builds anticipation. Computer generated circus animals complete the grand finale number, which is done well.
The Greatest Showman is all about entertainment and at the end, I wished the show could go on. No-one puts on a show as well as the Americans and this film tells you about the birth of showbusiness on such a grand scale. This movie is a slick and shiny production that will make you forget about the outside world for an hour or two. And we all need that now and again.