The Greatest Showman was a Golden Globe winner for Best Original Song, This Is Me. It was more of a musical than I thought, not just a song or two in the story, but rather a full musical. I liked it when I saw it recently on the big screen in my dollar theater. So much going on during Awards season, I hadn’t gotten around to seeing it just yet. It is rated PG for thematic elements including a brawl.
Phinneas “P. T.” Barnum (Hugh Jackman) is the son of a tailor and a poor one at that. He becomes enamored at a young age with Charity (Michelle Williams), a beautiful girl from a wealthy family. She marries him despite his lack of prospects as her father would put it, and they soon have two beautiful daughters that enrich their lives.
Phinneas is a dreamer, and his imagination proves to be everything to him. Remember, this is based on the true story of the man responsible for the Barnum and Bailey Circus. We watch how his inspirations become reality when he opens his museum of oddities in New York City, and how it expands to the live acts his troupe was known for.
There is also the scandal that occurs when he puts Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson), an opera singer from Sweden, on tour. She is dubbed the Swedish Nightingale, and the lengthy tour away from home almost costs him his marriage. Helping him through the rough spots is his right hand man, Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron). Phillip finds Phinn intriguing and inspiring, and working with him gives Phillip the joy in his life that coming from a staid, wealthy and boring family could never provide.
The film is also a romance, not just between Phinn and Charity, but also between Phillip and Anne Wheeler (Zendaya), the trapeze artist. From different worlds, Phillip and Anne find it difficult to bridge the gap in class and color that prejudice and privilege have created.
All in all, I really enjoyed the choreography and the singing and dancing. The sets are colorful and beautiful, and the cinematography first rate. Where the movie really shines is in its message: This Is Me. We are not freaks, we are human beings, deserving of respect and not disdain or horror. That could be said for anyone who has a disability or some trial to overcome. And where Phinn was out to make money and perhaps to gain respect that way, he also managed to give his unusual employees a sense of purpose, and a dose of self-esteem and self-acceptance.
I must have seen a circus during my childhood as the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus had its headquarters in Baraboo, Wisconsin. I just don’t have a clear memory of it, but I think I remember the colorful railroad cars that transported the circus to the towns.
Did you go to the circus when you were a kid? What did you think of the experience?