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GREATEST SHOWMAN, THE

SYNOPSIS:
Inspired by the imagination of P.T. Barnum, The Greatest Showman is an original musical that celebrates the birth of show business and tells of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation.

Review by Louise Kelle:
A sizzling explosion of colour, music and joie de vivre, The Greatest Showman is a toe-tapping, life enforcing celebration, reinforcing that 'a man's station is limited only by his imagination'. Armed with a winning smile and an abundance of talent, the ever-likeable Hugh Jackman is P.T. Barnum, the 19th century impresario who breaks boundaries as he follows his dreams and creates a circus of 'freaks' for those fascinated by the exotic and macabre. It's a feel-good Hollywood fantasy that whisks us away to a world filled with song and dance, beneath which bubbles an undercurrent of discrimination and longing for acceptance. Admittedly there is little substance beneath the gloss, but nonetheless the film is a crowd pleaser, albeit constrained by its sleek studio shackles.

Jenny Vicks (Sex and the City) and Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters) have written a crisp screenplay that delivers a one-dimensional musical that juggles the visual, dramatic and emotional in director Michael Gracey's debut film. Spectacular set pieces, showy choreography and dazzling costumes are a mainstay. The editing is seamless - watch for the visual and emotional acrobatics in the big top scene between Zac Efron's upper class theatrical rich-kid Phillip Caryle and Anne Wheeler (Zendaya), the trapeze artist with pink hair. Their romance crosses racial taboos. Efron has matured into such a fine talent and he brings a welcome quality to the screen. I also like the bar scene in which Jackman and Efron trade what is important to each of them: credibility and freedom. Shades of Moulin Rouge reverberate throughout.

Michelle Williams is lovely as Barnum's wife; always prepared to take risks but ultimately only wants the man with whom she fell in love. Rebecca Ferguson is suitably enigmatic as the Swedish nightingale Jenny Lind, the object of Barnum's infatuation. Or is it her pedigree that toys with his heart? When she sings 'Never Enough' and the camera pans onto Barnum's face, we understand. Just as we empathise with the Bearded Lady (Keala Settle), who sings 'This is Me' with passion. Vocally, everyone shines. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (they wrote the song lyrics for La La Land) have written hummable tunes, although they are somewhat formulaic and interchangeable. As for Gracey's film, don't expect too much grit: it never breaks the ice, nor does it pretend to be anything other than what it is.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

GREATEST SHOWMAN, THE (PG)
(US, 2017)

CAST: Hugh Jackman, Zak Efron, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, Austyn Johnson, Cameron Seely, Keala Settle, Sam Humphrey, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Ellis Rubin, Skylar Dunn

PRODUCER: Laurence Mark, Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping

DIRECTOR: Michael Gracey

SCRIPT: Jenny Bicks, Bill Condon

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Seamus McGarvey

EDITOR: Tom Cross, Robert Duffy, Joe Hutshing, Michael McCusker, Jon Poll, Spencer Susser

MUSIC: Benj Pasek, Justin Paul

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Nathan Crowley

RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2017







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