Film & TV

Review: The Greatest Showman

The Greatest Showman follows the crazy imagination of American businessman, politician and importantly, a showman. The box office success celebrates PT Barnum and his show business through a whirlwind of music, dancing and sensation. Quench contributors wrote their thoughts…

Right from its foot-stomping opening number, The Greatest Showman is a riot of colour, charm and razzmatazz, that cements Hugh Jackman’s status as one of the film industry’s greatest ‘triple threats’. Michael Gracey’s toe-tapping directorial debut flings its audience into the dazzling world of P.T. Barnum (Jackman), who, from humble beginnings, dreams of the spectacular. When his risky venture falls flat with the public, Barnum recruits ‘freaks’ to perform in what becomes his circus.

However, after recruiting playwright Philip Carlyle (played admirably by a reserved Zac Efron) and radiant opera singer Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson), Jackman’s character becomes blinded by his success, and begins to forget both his immediate and circus families, leading to an emphatic anthem of inclusion and rebellion (‘This Is Me’) led by bearded lady Lettie Lutz (Keala Settle). After allegations of adultery and a devastating fire leave Barnum with nothing, he is reminded of what is truly important, and sets about rebuilding the circus and his marriage, the audience backing him and his lovable troupe all the way.

Whilst the film may be criticised for sanitizing the character of P.T. Barnum, who, in reality, was far more exploitative than progressive, historical accuracy rightly takes a back seat to an important message of equality, diversity and love, and some belting musical numbers too.

By John Jones

The Greatest Showman is a musical that tells the theatrical story of P. T. Barnum and his plight to entertain. It is an uplifting tale that doesn’t try too hard. Much like Barnum’s (played by Hugh Jackman) goal for his circus, the film certainly entertains; with its catchy song and dance numbers, it is one that is made for the big screen.

Despite this, it often felt that the film lost its way and tried to cram too much into 1 hr 45, thus there were times when the story seemed a little underdeveloped. In addition, I felt that the film over-played its theatrics, with some parts (such as the scene with Barnum sat on top of an elephant strolling casually through Victorian London) inspiring eye-rolls rather than gasps of amazement. What should also be noted is that the film does gloss over a lot of P. T. Barnum’s career as an entertainer, painting him as celebrating difference while the reality was a lot more self-serving and cruel.

If you’re looking for a bit of fun to cheer up a chilly afternoon then I would recommend this film, however I would be prepared to take a lot of the story in with a pinch of salt.

By Bethany Griffths

Last year I walked into the cinema excited to see the movie musical that was finally gaining the critical attention (and the awards!) I always feel movie musicals deserve and seldom get (cough Hairspray, cough Into the Woods). Yet I left the cinema without a spring in my step, or indeed a song in my heart. Instead I felt flat. Cheated. That was it? I can honestly hand on heart say, I never even sang the songs in the shower. La La Land was polished and impressive, but it had no soul. Like the glittering City of Stars, I felt La La Land was all mouth and no trousers.

But, I had a saviour. A year later I went to see a movie musical that exceeded my expectations. The Greatest Showman. Admittedly I initially attended for Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron and Zendaya, but I was struck by how much heart the film had. How much I connected to the outcasts and the freaks that become a family of performers.  I belted out This is Me after having a particularly gruelling conversation with my parents, I drunkenly warbled The Other Side at pres, and I cried over Never Enough when, yet another person stopped replying to my messages. And that’s my point. None of these songs directly apply to my life, but the emotion in each of them? Yeah, I’ve felt that. I’m not saying that the cinematography, the plot, or even the music is better than La La Land, but I am saying that while The Greatest Showman is maybe less polished, it has more passion then the whole of La La Land combined. Plus, Hugh Jackman is really very attractive as a ringmaster!

By Saoirse O’Connor

As soon as a saw the trailers for this film, I couldn’t wait to see it!! Without even watching it, I was boogying away to the soundtrack on Spotify. They are all such upbeat, feel good songs that its impossible not to want to sing along. In fact, when last driving back to Cardiff from home I put on the soundtrack and in the space of that hour long journey I had almost lost my voice from belting out all the words! The cast is also phenomenal, as not only have you got the heart-throb that is Zac Effron, but you also have Wolverine himself: Hugh Jackman. If that alone isn’t enough to make you love the film, I don’t know what will! Of course, having the dream of being Zendaya’s BFFL additionally makes me feel in total awe throughout the whole film.

Despite being aware that the plot isn’t entirely accurate to the history behind Barnum’s circus, I can’t help but get shivers whenever one of the acrobats come flying through the scene, or tears in my eyes when the Bearded Lady bursts into one of her many inspirational songs! From Now On is my favourite number, as in my opinion it is the best representation of all the individual circus members and acts as a celebration of their individuality. I understand that wasn’t the case in the real life events, nonetheless that doesn’t stop embracing your uniqueness – being the message I took from the film. I walked out of the cinema with happy tears in my eyes and a warm fuzzy feeling! Within days I was back watching it again and belting out the songs… I would say that it’s my guilty pleasure but I don’t even feel the slightest bit ashamed!!

By Stephanie Rowe

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