It’s been over a month since the holiday season in which The Greatest Showman was released in theatres. It’s definitely a holiday sort of movie; the cheerful spirit and dreams made into reality. But why can’t we have that spirit all year round?
The Greatest Showman follows P.T. Barnum, the creator of the circus, as he works his way up from poverty. What begins as a museum of wax transforms into a show of outcasts that deals with a flux of angry mobs and the upper class.
A critic within the movie calls the show he puts on a “celebration of humanity.” The people Barnum puts on stage address those society had never wanted to see before, so maybe that’s the case. The show also deals with racism through the love story between an upperclassman, Philip Carlyle, and a black acrobat, Anne Wheeler.
It was a beautiful movie. The colors and lights fit into the whimsical mood the director hoped to create. The dance numbers were passionate and graceful. The images and cinematography helped make the movie an extraordinary thing to watch. It had the feel of a circus, but also a somber mood when it needed it.
As a musical, it focused a lot on song. Its soundtrack is a short eleven songs, but it felt as if the characters were always singing; whether or not that is good or bad. It’s made its way into my list of favorite musicals simply because of the emotion and ambience of every song.
This all created the potential for this to be one of my favorite movies. Aesthetically, it’s one of the best I’ve seen. But for something that promotes itself as a show of diversity, I found it never actually focused on the diversity. Diversity was often only shown as an obstacle to the success of Barnum’s show. Anne and Philip’s romance was gorgeously created and dealt with issues of race, but was only a side plot. The performers in his show never had their own stories, only the story of being a part of the circus that threw them together.
I saw this movie twice simply because I couldn’t understand the whole of the movie the first time around. I’d still be willing to watch it many more times. But as beautiful as the songs and cinematography were, its main plot is following what Barnum was willing to do to win the approval of people. The main question was when he’d look around and accept the success of circus instead of when the rest of society would.
In the end, Barnum, after almost losing everything, realizes his mistakes. He had had a group of people who had depended on him and who he had let down. It’s only then when he begins to include himself in this group of outcasts he put together. So maybe in the end, it is a celebration of diversity; when everyone comes together in the end to create something that doesn’t shame society’s outcasts.
I’m not saying the movie is bad, it’s one of my new favorites. Like P.T. Barnum would say, it’s sensational. I’m only saying that you shouldn’t enter the theater expecting a movie strictly about diversity. Expect one about success and dreams coming true. Diversity is a positive sideline and well handled,but maybe not as big as it could have been.