Also caught The Greatest Showman, the flick about P.T. Barnum as played by Hugh Jackman in full song-and-dance mode (as opposed to action hero mutant mode). This movie has some pretty bad reviews and I suspect a lot of that is over the depiction of Barnum as some sort of “woke” hero of the 19th century, ensuring the various members of his circus have dignity and respect… when, it’s more likely that he exploited them in his freak show. Either way you see the man, the movie is the movie.
And the first thing this movie wants to do is entertain you with song and dance. There’s a plot and it’s generally fine, but the main focus is on one showpiece song and dance routine after another. And I liked these songs and their performances (even if most of them were of the same chorus-like-like variety). I especially like the song Rewrite the Stars which is a sweet song sung by Zendaya and Zac Ephron in the film. Also good was This is Me, the movie’s exclamation point on its message of inclusion and acceptance as sung by The Bearded Woman.
And, yes, calling the actress (Keale Settle) the Bearded Woman is just shy of how the movie handles its circus performers. She has a bit of a plot as does the smallest man on earth but almost all of the other performers are background, window dressing. Even more famous ones like Ang and Chang (the conjoined twins who introduced the term Siamese Twins) are pretty much ignored. Zendaya, as the black trapeze artist actually gets a subplot based around her interracial attraction and romance with Zac Ephron. However, being a family-friendly movie, they kind of gloss over the repercussions of what this means in the late 1800s. And, hey, a cynic might point out that Zendaya getting the romance subplot is convenient since, well, she looks like Zendaya and Ephron loos like Ephron.
But this is the approach to the real story of PT Barnum this movie takes. It’s not an accurate presentation of the character even though Jackman plays the heck out of the roll. He’s got the huckster smile and demeanor to play the character. It would have been more interesting to actually see the humbug he keeps saying he’s presenting but the movie is far more interesting in elevating the circus than it is telling any real truth. But, as I said above, that’s the movie they made and the movie they made was entertaining enough.
So, yeah, the mixed reviews the movie is getting I think aren’t really focused on what the movie is so much what the movie represents (or doesn’t represent). They have a good point but I still settle back on whether the entertainment was entertaining… were the songs and performance good, was the acting good, etc. They were. That’s enough for me. A darker, more honest movie about Barnum and the circus can be made… this isn’t that movie.