Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Greatest Showman

Okay this is a hard movie to talk about, not because of some tragedy surrounding the film or because it's bad, but....because it's a musical.

Musicals are very hard to sell. Musical movies are incredibly hard to sell, they lack logic and are built on pure feels so this is your chance to take a lifeboat off the ship now and go see something else. For those of you who stuck around, I present to you The Greatest Showman, a film concerning the life of a P.T. Barnum that lived as a street urchin in the early 1800s who decides to bring joy to people and creates a sort of proto-circus. Always seeking for something better for him and his family, he reaches for the stars, stumbles, but regains his footing and ends all in all very happily. Now I am going to try to keep this brief, because there is always a lot to talk about in terms of musicals on film so I will just say, the visuals are outstanding with perfect framing, use of color, and editing. You attach yourself deeply to Mr. Barnum, and really want to see the best happen to him. Hugh Jackman is awesome, of course. Zac Efron was...good. I liked him in this movie, and that is coming from a guy who is not quite his biggest fan. All the supporting cast is great, but especially the performers in his circus, they are such endearing, human, likeable characters that I wanted to see all the time and wanted to know more about them. The music, oh God here we go. Rambling incoming!! With every musical I have ever seen, the music matches the setting, tone, and overall story. Phantom Of The Opera my favorite musical ever, the music fits the setting of the Paris Opera House, the time frame the play is set in, and the tone of the musical being romance based and dealing with the characters. It fits, it works, it does not seem out of place. The Greatest Showman has straight up 2017 music in a Victorian era setting. It does not work at all, though some of the songs are quite good. You can tell it is modern day music being used several centuries ago, and it feels wrong. Though I have not seen many musicals, never have I experienced this problem. Camelot, Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Producers, all films have their signature style of music and all work. Even Moulin Rouge did this and while I have not seen Moulin Rouge I can tell you the movie is meloframatic as hell and completely surreal and dreamlike, so anything goes with it because it embraces the absurdity and emotional crux. The Greatest Showman is a good movie, a decent musical, I liked a few of the songs, all the performances were spot on, but I know it is not for everyone. Musicals are not marketable to wide audiences, it died in the 60s thanks to Hello Dolly and didn't really come back until the early 2000s. I mean really, what was the last musical you saw in a movie theater? Not Disney, no animation, real people, real sets, singing away on multiple occasions. This is my first to be honest. Every other I saw on video! So it's rare to talk about such a movie and it's not easy to talk about. Though it does inhabit the medium of film (and I don't think this movie had a stage predecessor) it's like comparing a golden retriever to a zebra, it's two very different things. Now before I go, I do very extremely highly recommend you watch Lindsay Ellis' video essay on the 2004 Phantom Of The Opera movie. I had to watch it before I wrote my review, because of the information she gives would be crucial to my writing, and everything I did not say in terms of musical movies she does. I would have had this review up literally an hour ago but I needed that information because I don't do musicals often or hardly at all. I'll leave a link below, you only really have to stick around for about 15 minutes but the rest of the video is still extremely valid to view.

Lindsay's 2004 Phantom Essay:

Well that's it for me. Have a good night, morning, afternoon, whatever. And take what I took away from it all, do you, be you, do the things that bring you joy and hopefully it helps bring a little happiness into the world.

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