A review by The Movie Muse, Naomi Takeuchi
Overall rating 4.5 stars
Michael Creasey directs an amazing cast in this story regarding P.T. Barnum and the development of the Barnum Circus. Hugh Jackman stars in the title role along with Michelle Williams as his wife, Charity Williams, Zac Efron as his partner Phillip Carlisle and Zendaya as his love interest/trapeze artist.
This film was not on my radar initially. I had a few friends who had seen it, but I hadn’t heard rave reviews from anyone. It was one of those films I decided to see while I was on a road trip to the East Coast. It had been released for several weeks, so I also knew there would be few crowds attending this event. Needless to say, I was the only person in the theater. I have found that Mondays are a great day to go if you want the theater to yourself!
One of the first things I saw was a small clip of Michael Creasey and Hugh Jackman speaking directly to the audience. They mention how excited they were to present this film, and that this was meant to be seen on the large screen. It was an interesting introduction especially after seeing regular trailers to see a special note to the audience from these two creative minds. I settled in, and I was not disappointed!
Don’t worry fans…no spoilers…but I will say that the opening scenes of Hugh Jackman singing beneath the bleachers of the tent in the shadows and then his big reveal to the audience in his regalia in full color in the spotlights, the audience knows we are in for a big ride. And with most films, it’s the first few seconds that grabs the audience and lets them know we are in for a big show! And we do see the entire cast in the first few moments of the film, and we are intrigued as we begin to learn about them.
The film begins with P.T. Barnum’s humble beginnings to how he rose from a tailor’s son to how he met his wife and to his start in the business world. As a fellow entrepreneur, this film also spoke to me as to the depths of the peaks and valleys that all entrepreneurs face when going on their own to develop something new.
As the film continues, we see how P.T. Barnum creates a partnership with Phillip Carlisle and how as business partners they rely on each other for Barnum’s showmanship and for Carlisle’s practicality as they create this amazing form of entertainment, different from what has been available to the public in the past.
We get to meet all of the circus members and learn their respective back stories regarding how they came to be part of this troupe. Three of the characters that the film focus on are Annie Wheeler (played by Zendaya), Lettie Lutz (The Bearded Woman played by Keala Settle) and Tom Thumb (played by Sam Humphrey). Annie shows wonderful subtleties in the interaction with Phillip Carlisle, Lettie Lutz provides grit and determination in her role as she performs as the Bearded Woman, and Tom Thumb shows the despite his diminutive stature, leadership can come in many sizes.
There is also an interlude regarding the famous Swedish singer, Jenny Lind (played by Rebecca Ferguson – singing by Loren Allred of Season Three from The Voice), and her interaction with P.T. Barnum. The film implies that there was more there than what was actually historically accurate.
If I were to provide a criticism of this film, it is in the portrayal of some of the historical facts between P.T. Barnum. As I mentioned, there isn’t a relationship or intrigue regarding Jenny Lind, and there is some artistic license taken regarding the extent of some of the activities the film follows.
Otherwise, I was very impressed. To rate the top three Movie Muse Categories:
Acting – 4 stars
Cinematography – 4.5 stars
Special Effects – 5 stars
From a scale of 0.5 (dim) to 5.0 (bright), this has an overall rating of 4.5 stars. Yes, this is bright!!! Go see it in the theaters now before it’s too late! I don’t think the grandeur will be portrayed quite as well on a small screen. It is a spectacle and being in the theater will make you feel like you are in the big tent!