Director: Michael Gracey
Nominated for: Best Original Song
Firstly – let me once again apologise for my seeming consistent inability to post on a regular basis. I was on such a role with the Oscars nominations and had left my standout favourite film til last to review and then got carried away with real life and the show I was doing took over which resulted in me dropping this blog (again!!) Anyhow the show has now finished and I can return to some semblance of a relaxed life and am now aiming to pick this up slightly more regularly. On that note – here is my review for The Greatest Showman … finally.
The Greatest Showman came out just before Christmas here in the UK and got pretty lacklustre reviews amongst the industry but the public don’t really listen to those critics and this seems to have become an instant cult classic – it is still showing in cinemas now (almost 6 months after its initial release) and yet comes out on DVD next week! And that’s without all the special sing-along screenings that have been taking place for the last couple of months. I should know – I’ve been to a few of those myself. Not only has the film done incredibly well in terms of sales but the soundtrack … oh the soundtrack! The soundtrack is outstanding and has had an exceptional run on the Top 100 US Billboard which is almost unheard of for a film musical soundtrack. The songs are uplifting and instant classics – they remain in your head for weeks after.
In fact at the first sing-along event we did at The Prince Charles Cinema (which happened to be the first one in the country) we had Michael Gracey, the director, in attendance and he said that they wrote songs for months and months in the pre-production period and if they weren’t humming the song the next day then it got scrapped and they started again. You can definitely tell that this process worked well for the film. I think it was an absolute travesty that “This Is Me” didn’t win Best Original Song at the Oscars … especially as it was the only live performance on the night that was actually in turn and understandable!! Not only is “This Is Me” a spectacular song it is also one of the standout moments in film that I have seen for a long time. The slow-mo jump gives me instantaneous goosebumps every time I see it. It’s such a clever piece of filming that is in complete sync with the soundtrack.
I also can’t understand how the only nomination it garnered was for Best Original Song when the Costume and Hair and Makeup for The Greatest Showman is brilliant. The costumes are gorgeous and rich, full of colour and style. And then the makeup – they made a bearded lady, a wolf boy, a guy who is tattooed over 90% of his body and gave a guy an extra leg but you know, none of that is worthy of recognition from the Academy.
I was pleasantly surprised with Michelle Williams and her performance, not so much the acting as I knew she was a brilliant actress already, but I didn’t know she could dance or sing as well as she does. Rebecca Ferguson is not a hugely sympathetic character in her role as Jenny Lind. But it does highlight that Gracey and Jackman did not shy away from the fact that P. T. Barnum isn’t always a nice guy. In fact sometimes he’s a bit of a schmuck and gets completely swept up in his new project and drops his family and the people most important to him.
This is the sort of musical that really suits Hugh Jackman – gotta say I wasn’t too impressed with him as Jean Val Jean in Les Miserables (Tom Hooper, 2012) – and this really restored my opinion that he is a consummate showman. However I think my favourite performance was actually Zac Efron as Phillip. Efron truly is in his element here – this is what he does best. He is a magnificent singer and an exquisite dancer. While I acknowledge there are some factions who find Efron a bit of a joke, and it is true that he has played off his looks in the last couple of years, but I have always been a fan of Efron (ever since his appearance in Firefly, Joss Whedon, 2002) and have staunchly been waving his flag throughout the dubious ‘comedies’ he’s done recently. So to see him at his best in this was something of a validation. He didn’t even take his top off once so you can’t say I was blinded by his amazing body. I love his character development as Phillip as well. He goes from being this society playboy just coasting through life on his father’s name and money to someone who actually has opinions of his own and is not afraid to stand up for them. The duet between Efron and Zendaya is also a marvel of filmmaking, or rather stunts, as they did all that aerial work themselves – while singing!
I think the overwhelming feeling I took away from The Greatest Showman is that the entire film is very life-affirming. It’s message is very much one that says love yourself as you are with all your flaws and imperfections as you’re beautiful just the way you are. That’s a fantastic message to be putting out in the world especially considering what a shallow, looks-orientated community we currently live in. And I think this may have a lot to do with its continuing success – it’s really touched anyone who has felt different, stance, unwelcome, or a little bit left out at some time in their life … and let’s face it everyone has had one of those moments. It’s a film that celebrates otherness and the outcasts and that’s a great thing. I honestly love this film. It’s completely taken me over and I recommend it to anyone. Every single person can find something to relate to in this film which I think is a rare thing in Hollywood. Even if you’re not usually a musical person I urge you to go and see this film … it’s worth it I promise!!