Last week, I watched The Greatest Showman. I would love to give it a glowing review because it reminded me of the classic movies I love, but my review is somewhat mixed. First, here’s the trailer for the movie.
The Greatest Showman
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, and Zac Efron
Director: Michael Gracey
Celebrates the birth of show business, and tells of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation.
What I loved about the movie:
For acting, storytelling, theme, and performances, I give this movie 5 stars. I loved they made in a musical. The romance between PT Barnum and his wife was heartfelt. The theme of everyone having value was well done. The character arcs of PT Barnum and his assistant Carlyle were believable and made the characters three dimensional and likable. The plot brought us on the edge of our seats, and in the satisfying end, caused us to leave the movie theater feeling good. This reminded me of the classic musicals that I love from years past. There were no loose ends to be tied up. If it had been a fictional story about a fictional character, I would have praised the movie and recommended it to all my friends.
What bothered me about the movie:
While the romance between PT and Charity Barnum rang true, very little of the story reflected the truth about PT’s life. First, the timeline was all wrong. Barnum didn’t start his museum until his forties, and he was in his seventies before it became a traveling circus. He was not the feel good person in the movie. He is credited with first saying, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” He would do anything to make money including exploiting his four year old nephew, the real Tom Thumb, and buying a 80 year old slave even though he was an abolitionist and claiming she was the 169 year old nurse of George Washington.
I do understand poetic license and changing the events to make a good story. I could have forgiven the rest of it, but one thing they changed bothered me more than any of the rest. In the movie, Jenny Lynd, the opera singer who toured America, was offered the tour by PT Barnum. That part was true.
What wasn’t true was that PT left Charity to go on tour with Jenny or that Jenny was infatuation with PT to the point of kissing him in front of reporters to get back at him for rejecting her attentions. PT was devoted to Charity, and Jenny Lynd never did anything like that. All of this was fake. Lynd, one of the greatest singers of the 19th century, toured America and cut ties with Barnum because he insisted on too rigorous of a schedule to make more money from her. She donated everything she earned from the tour to charity. To cast her in such a negative light was shameful. This soured the movie for me.
Another part of the movie I didn’t like was how it was implied the museum was burned to the ground by people protesting the freak show. While nobody knows who burned down the theater, it is more likely it was because of the strong stand Barnum took as a politician against slavery before the Civil War and for equal rights after the Civil War. This would have made the story more powerful, especially if they showed Barnum exploiting a slave, Washington’s nurse, in the 1840s and becoming an advocate of abolition and equal rights later in his life.
As I said earlier, I wish the story had been about a fictional character because in reality, it was.