I am a bit late to the party with this one but since everyone I follow on Instagram seems to be obsessed with it, I decided I should give it a go. Prior to this viewing I had absolutely no idea what the film was actually about, apart from the circus (?) based on the poster. I also had no idea that Michelle Williams or Zac Efron were in it. Sometimes being a mum of a small child really is like living under a rock.
Anyway… turns out it’s about P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman), a tailor’s son with big dreams of a life on the stage. Despite her family’s misgivings, P.T. marries his upper class childhood sweetheart, Charity (Michelle Williams) and opens a museum of oddities. To make sure he gets people through the door P.T. isn’t past “conflating” the truth a bit… adding a few pounds here, popping a giant on stilts… that kind of thing. Soon he and his “freaks” are drawing in massive crowds and his dreams of a country mansion become a reality.
Unfortunately wealth cannot buy acceptance and P.T. finds himself seen as forever the ringmaster. This leads to partnerships with theatre director, Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron) and singer, Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson) but can you ever escape your roots? And if it means leaving behind those that gave you wings, should you?
I really don’t like musicals so I thought that all the singing and dancing was going to wind me up. It didn’t. The songs are really fun, the dancing is great and the costumes are gorgeous. I honestly enjoyed that part of it. Jackman has a great voice and some excellent moves and he is obviously having a whale of a time playing Barnum. Rebecca Ferguson is lovely as Jenny Lind and it’s easy to see why her character is drawn to Barnum.
On the downside, the story is so clichéd. I felt like I knew exactly what was going to happen at every turn. I also know a bit about P.T. Barnum and the story is completely historically inaccurate, not that that should necessarily be a deal breaker but it just brought out the cynic in me. I also though the relationship between Philip and black trapeze artist, Anne Wheeler (Zendaya) was a bit worthy and the exploitative nature of Barnum’s circus, undercooked.
It’s not a bad film at all. It’s super watchable and I can see why some people have watched it over and over again. I can tell you though that I definitely won’t be one of them. Once was enough to satisfy my showman needs.