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Items | 5 years of “The Greatest Showman”, musical film with Hugh Jackman



PT Barnum is perhaps one of the most recognizable names in the North American entertainment industry and businesses. It was through his ability to take risks and see ahead of his time that he became the first millionaire on the show business side, letting go of all that held him back to become the creator of one of the world’s most famous circuses. most successful in US history, Barnum & Bailey. In a real journey scrutinized by innumerable obstacles, transforming his life into a musical would, at first sight, be the ideal way to live up to his legacy and show, in a poetic, even metaphorical way, how someone can be moved primarily by the desire to excel in life.

At least that was Michael Gracey’s attempt with his first film “The Greatest Showman”. Through a classic take on the hero’s journey, the filmmaker delves into Barnum’s life to make an adaptation that’s both faithful – at least for the most part – and free enough to offer a unique perspective. The only problem is that, despite the undeniably beautiful art design, the feature film fails in its own axis to be original, functioning as a garish mix of colors and sounds of contemporary culture and which, at times, manages to stand out. subtly lean homages to earlier and infinitely superior works.

The musical opens beautifully. We can say that in the first sequence, meticulously choreographed and edited, the story already shows its identity: an ode to dreamers, to family and to union, something that may even seem cliché, but which dialogues coherently with the joyful spirit of the end of year celebrations. Here we are introduced, to the viscerally pop sound of “The Greatest Show”, to the protagonist, played by Hugh Jackman. His performance is engaging from start to finish, and while he has a few flaws – whether in redundant mannerisms or somewhat contrived on-stage characteristics – the brilliance of his charisma always speaks louder. In the prologue, we also have the honor of seeing a mini-show composed of all the characters who have marked Barnum’s life, in sequence shots which allow wide camera movements, which slide and merge between closed frames and open, allowing an enlargement of the decor. and even the movements of the actors.

The showman is the embodiment of utopia: he sees himself endowed with enough skills to go far beyond what others have believed since childhood. And it’s no wonder, since his childhood was marked by difficult events, including an impossible love, the impending death of his father and loneliness, factors that led him to live on the streets until he reached to join the circus and earn enough money to save his beloved from the overprotective clutches of the family. It’s all orchestrated in a passionate, almost clichéd way, even allowing the light shows – a relatively pamphleteer-like assault for the film – to take us into 1990s comedy-dramas like “My First Love.”

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As soon as Barnum and Charity (Michelle Williams) free themselves from the social ties that separate them, they both embark on a dreamlike journey where they are masters of their choices and their adventures, even if it means leaving the comfort zone of the wealthiest. . centers could offer the girl. The chemistry between Williams and Jackman is beautiful, and both characters seem to have been lifted from one of William Shakespeare’s tragic works and sweetened with endless flames of hope that keep them going even through the darkest of times. But of course, like any love odyssey, this bliss has an expiration date that becomes increasingly dangerous as the entrepreneur’s ambitions grow.

In other words, the protagonist’s artistic personality can correlate with the soul of countless playwrights, filmmakers, painters, and writers who wish to leave their mark on the world. However, as is clear halfway through the film, he never really experienced the taste of personal love; all his will is carried by public recognition and social ascent, even if he denies them with all his might. Eventually, he becomes what he has always repudiated – an elitist, superficial person who condemns those who do not meet acceptable standards of good coexistence (i.e. his own colleagues, the “monsters” that he once chose to kiss as part of his family). he prefers the company of his peers to egalitarianism.

Barnum opens his circus of horrors a priori as a wax museum whose dismal failure leads him to invest in something more exotic, as he puts it. Thus, he starts recruiting unique people to compose his show, such as the tallest man in the world, the bearded lady, the wolf boy, the trapeze artists and others. All this background has already been seen, for example, in the fourth season of ‘American Horror Story’, but unlike the horror anthology, which valued the visceral behind-the-scenes of these presentations, ‘The Greatest Showman’ prefers to rush in a fictionalized vision in which each of its participants is a follower of a humanist ideology and gets along. It works at times, especially considering the divine nature of the musical; however, in its entirety, it doesn’t allow the audience to form a deep enough connection with the characters, as they are perfect in their own mistakes.

The forbidden romance remains as a palliative to the plot. Again, your need is expendable, but the construction of the musical numbers is brilliant and very well architected. With almost surreal movements, both of its participants and of the camera, the claustrophobic space transforms into a complete and limitless arena, allowing anyone watching to enter a dizzying synchronization. I evoke here the relationship that begins to take shape between Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron), a playwright who gives up his name and his privileges to give a chance to the circus, and the contortionist Anne Wheeler, whose incarnation made by Zendaya is the one of the great and exciting surprises of the film. The apogee of this love emerges in the pop ballad “Rewrite the Stars”, an interpretation which begins with musical classicism and which, suddenly, decides to embrace an architecture essentially marked by the keyboard and the drums and which, unfortunately, robs him of his potential.

DF-07341_R – PT Barnum (Hugh Jackman) and Charity Barnum (Michelle Williams) share an enchanting dance on a New York rooftop in Twentieth Century Fox’s THE GREATEST SHOWMAN.

Despite the closed story created by Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon, it is the soundtrack by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul that sins the most in its own narrative scope. We are talking here about a society steeped in the conservatism and growing racial strife of the mid-19th century, in which progress was the enemy of comfort. The choice to keep all titles on the same tone, ranging at most from a slow, impassioned soliloquy to a thundering anthem of self-acceptance, is wrong and often speaks louder than the beauty of their imaged identities. Perhaps the option of more rustic elements reminiscent of growing industries and modern man’s sense of dread fit less forcefully into Barnum’s story – although one can understand that as a man ahead of his time, his mark is recognized to this day.

One of the highlights is undoubtedly the entry of Rebecca Ferguson as opera singer Jenny Lind, which represents a sea change in the life of the showman. First of all, Jenny seems to have been lifted from a Renaissance painting, adorned with a perfection that comes to frighten. The delicate lines merge with her powerful vocal range and enter into a well-placed controversy involving betrayal, tabloids and deceit. She is also the main responsible, albeit indirectly, for the irreversible transformation of the protagonist: if Barnum appeared once with his colorful characterizations in the middle of an amorphous and gray mass, he gradually mingles with what he has always repudiated, leaving a void in the wife’s life. and the daughters, who remain engulfed in a vibrant and happy world, even without the presence of the father.

The film is theatrical. Its aesthetic, from the composition of the sets to the choices of framing, is reminiscent of classic Russian ballets, based on an expressionist and grandiose aesthetic, with striking landscapes and inaccessible buildings, and even more memorable characters who had the power to stand out from the crowd. others. the viewer. The script, however, leaves something to be desired: it’s satisfying for those who are used to stories that don’t dare and who stay in their “comfort zone” – an affront even to the ideals of the circus character. Everything from the middle of the first act to the final conclusion is predictable; there are no details, but there are no impressive turns either, but a passion for the breakneck pace that prevents us from tasting the potential it offers.

The ‘King of the Show’ is not the best show in the world. Although it references works like ‘Moulin Rouge’ or ‘Chicago’, its ironic limitations prevent it from concisely accomplishing what it promises. Otherwise, it’s cute – and while not entirely satisfying, it’s an attractive choice for those looking for some enjoyable weekend entertainment.

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