I will start this review off by saying, this film is nowhere near a true story. This film does not tell us who PT Barnum really was, does a great disservice to the true Jenny Lind, and over exaggerates every spark of good while downplaying every true awful about the real story of PT Barnum and his and downplays every questionable deed the man ever did.
Do not go to this film for a history lesson, you will not find it.
However, all that being said, I loved this film for the sake of it being an perfectly choreographed musical, a beautiful statement of hope and dreams, and a bit pollyanna-ish with a song and a smile it’ll all work out for the good. In a way, this is a throwback to those old movies where they had to put on a show to save someone or something and they did that story superply.
To be clear, my review is of the story I was shown, I am not reviewing the real characters and their part in the story.
Where to start?
If you love a good musical, this one is good. It keeps the songs and dance numbers flowing from the first moment to the last. In fact, I’m only assuming there was dialogue in the film at this point because, for me, every song written was incredibly meaningful and memorable. My favorites being the duet between Zac Efron and Zendaya, Rewrite The Stars.\
This song is beautiful, but the choreographed scene in the movie paired with this song, is one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve ever watched. It was a dance in flight and made me feel every note of the song more. In fact, I’m going back to see this movie again next week, and it’s primarily to see this scene on the big screen one more time.
While the love story between these characters is barely touched upon, this song soars. My criticism though is that the song made me actually wish we’d seen more of their story unfold. However, this movie was jam packed and pushing in anymore probably would have just ruined the fine balance they somehow managed to obtain.
My other favorite song is the anthem, This is Me sung by Keala Settle, our bearded lady of the circus. This song comes in during a moment when even their beloved Barnum has turned on them and it’s exceedingly heartfelt, but the song itself speaks to me on such a personal level too.
I am brave, I am bruised I am who I’m meant to be, this is me.
The other show stopper for me was Jenny Lind’s performance of Never Enough, sung by Loren Allred. This moment in the movie is unshakable. This is another area of the story that has little to do with history, but as a writer, I really loved what they created in this character. I loved the way Rebecca Ferguson brought the character to life. In the end, I truly felt for her. In this movie, PT Barnum and Miss Lind are broken people trying to fill enormous self worth wounds and she thinks she’s found the answer in him.
Truly, this is a major theme of this movie, how do we fill the holes left inside us?
Aside from all the amazing music and dance numbers, there was a story happening in this film, although it was not the story of PT Barnum so much. If you can set that aside, you’ll come away having seen a story about humanity, the things that separate us, the choices we make, the way we love, they way we fear, and the way we rise up. This, the film did very well.
This is a movie for dreamers and music lovers, I happen to be both. Just check your need for historical accuracy at the door and enjoy the ride! – Samantha
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