Look out 'cause here I come—The Greatest Showman
Update: This article was written in early January 2018, prior to the film's global success.
Film critics who have panned "The Greatest Showman" may want to sit down and hold a beer or two, whilst this movie does what no critic can do—inspire millions of people and make a tonne of money while doing it.
After reading multiple reviews by the pseudo-scientists of cinema, I had to roll my eyes at their hypocrisy in calling the fantasy-biopic a "fake." "The Greatest Showman" has a 53% Rotten Tomatoes score, while audiences have rated the movie 90% (January 2018). Whose truth should we believe?
"The Greatest Showman" is a dizzying and fantastic musical fairy-tale inspired by the life of P.T. Barnum—an entrepreneur and showman of the 19th Century who created Barnum's American Museum and became the founder of the circus. His visionary creativity inspired the concept of the circus and the heart of show business today.
Scored with soulful and joyfully addictive original music by Oscar® and Golden Globe-winning songwriting team Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, first-time feature Director, Michael Gracey, succeeds in translating the story of P.T. Barnum for contemporary times and interweaving the human challenges of inclusion and acceptance, which continue to divide humanity on many global stages, into a universal format, that leaves audiences singing and dancing.
After viewing the film and researching verified social media reactions from cinema-goers—the criticisms to date are tone deaf to the reality of how audiences are feeling about the movie and the authenticity of the cast and key creatives. Too often, the politics and agendas behind film reviews critically affect the rise or fall of a film in the press—due to power plays that have nothing to do with the merit of the work itself. Remember: films are meant for audiences.
As I left the cinema, I felt cheated by the reviews I read, which lead me to expect the worst. Instead—I left awestruck and sincerely on the edge of tears. Original film musicals are a rare breed and terrifically difficult to execute. "The Greatest Showman" is a big screen spectacular, that not only enlightens its audience—it captures the essence of the solutions the world is trying to create today, to bring humanity together.
Love is simple. That seems to be what confuses critics attempting to analyse it in this movie. No, it is not a documentary film about P.T. Barnum. It is a fictionalised fantasy inspired by his life, that seeks only to uplift and unite us, during some of the darkest times humanity never expected to experience.
The only disappointment I experienced in "The Greatest Showman" is the lack of critical praise for the talent of its new director, Michael Gracey and the film’s outstanding cast; Zendaya, Zac Efron, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson, and Keala Settle, lead by actor and co-producer, Hugh Jackman.
With box office figures increasing by 77% just last weekend, I do not doubt that—just like P.T. Barnum—the producers will have the last well-deserved laugh and triumph.
With just one widely read review, seven and a half years of work (the time it took to bring The Greatest Showman to the screen) can dissolve into a puff of smoke before anyone has even laid eyes on a single frame of a film. Considering that the most common criticism of "The Greatest Showman" has been that the movie is disingenuous, I could hold up a mirror to those critics and offer a wry smile. The greatest fraud in life is to judge what you cannot do, hope to achieve, or experience. Perhaps, it is that very message in the movie, that has stung critics personally.
In a new study released this year by the Center for Study of Women in Television and Film, women made up only 22% of those considered, "Top critics" by Rotten Tomatoes and wrote only 18% of the reviews. So, unless you are a middle-aged Caucasian male, you may want to consider trusting your own personal experience over movie reviewers from a bygone era and define your next cinema-going experience, based on your own eyes and ears.
If you look beyond your nose, you may notice that this year the hallowed halls of power are crumbling, and with it, the status and influence of those who have moulded our culture and times from a place of entitlement and ego—rather than true service. To that end, I am not being paid or influenced in any way as I write this article in support of a film, that I believe is genuinely worth seeing.
Perhaps, what "The Greatest Showman" achieves in being muted by established critics, is a real-life reflection of the conflict in Western culture between the agenda of those in power and those who are daring to be different, in service to real people, and moving our culture forward.
For those who called this movie "fake", here’s what authenticity looks like:
Keala Settle is undoubtedly the break-out star of the film. Her radiance teaches us that the beauty of the human spirit comes from the heart. She empowers people to just be and accept themselves.
Keala Settle sung Oscar-nominated "This is Me" at the 90th Academy Awards and received unanimous praise from audiences for delivering the night's favourite performance.
"The Greatest Showman" soundtrack has also remained on the Billboard charts for 10 weeks, becoming only the second album to remain in the No. 1 spot for that many consecutive weeks, in the last 30 years.