By Madison Watkins, A&E Editor
In December of 2016 we got “La La Land.” This past December we got “The Greatest Showman.” What do these movies have in common? They are wonderful musicals that celebrate show-business in their own ways. Thanks to these two movies, musicals are becoming popular in Hollywood again. What “La La Land” lacked, “The Greatest Showman” made up for.
“The Greatest Showman” is based on the true story of P.T. Barnum, the founder of Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus and is credited as the creator of show-business. Taking place in the late 1800s, the film follows Barnum as he tries to get past his poor social stature by creating a show for people to see new exotic things they have never seen before so he can give his daughters a better upbringing than he had. In his quest of finding success, he begins to lose sight of what’s important as he slowly drifts away from his circus by trying to appeal to a highbrow audience.
The film has been a passion project for actor Hugh Jackman and director Michael Gracey since 2009. After learning of Barnum’s story, Jackman thought it would be a great idea for a musical film. Jackman and Gracey repeatedly went to movie studios to get the film picked up but they were hesitant because original musicals were not popular in Hollywood at the time. Once “La La Land” was getting a lot of attention, 20th Century Fox decided to take the chance and sent the film into production.
In addition to its similarities with “La La Land” these two films share the same lyricists- Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. The film’s unique soundtrack uses musical styles that are more common with today’s music rather than the classical style of the 1800s. Pasek and Paul won the Oscar last year for best original song for “La La Land.” They won the award again for best original song at the Golden Globes earlier this month for “The Greatest Showman” and will almost certainly garner Oscar nominations again for their work.
I was not convinced at first about the modern musical style that would be used for the songs but any hesitation I had was gone by the end of the opening number. Apart from the love ballad “Rewrite the Stars,” which could easily gain popularity on the radio, none of the songs sound too different from anything you would usually hear in a musical. The soundtrack is wonderful and all the actors involved did a great job both in their solos and as a chorus. The soundtrack is worth listening to repeatedly but fair warning; it will get stuck in your head for long periods of time.
The film’s story went along with the music seamlessly. Barnum’s character can seem like a jerk at first but as the film goes on you begin to understand his motivations and feel sympathy for him.
While the film largely differs from what happened in real life, it captures the spirit of what Barnum was trying to achieve that audiences today can enjoy. Having people of different colors, people with disabilities and people of varying shapes and sizes in the spotlight during the 1800s was groundbreaking.
Through the diversity of the cast, the film accesses an audience that “La La Land” could not. It helps the film carry a relevant message to today for anyone struggling to be accepted. The only things I didn’t like about the film were the predictable elements in the story. While was overall engaging and incites concern for its characters, the plot eventually gets too predictable by the middle of the movie. The use of clichés also did not help the film and detracts from its originality.
The film, however, is plenty unique despite its setbacks, and its pros easily outweigh its cons. The catchy music, likable characters, excellent production design, and beautiful costumes all guarantee an enjoyable experience in viewing this film. I would rate the film a 7 out of 10.