Amid spectacle, personal relationships give ‘Greatest Showman’ some heart

January 4, 2018 GMT

Movies & More reviewer John Gillispie shares his thoughts on “The Greatest Showman,” which is rated PG and currently playing in theaters.

Why do we strive for success in life? Is it to prove to ourselves that hard work and dedication can pay off? Or do we want to show our naysayers they were wrong in doubting we could succeed? Or does success involve a combination of these factors?

“The Greatest Showman” takes on those questions and more as Hugh Jackman stars as P.T. Barnum. We see Barnum as a poor child and then an ambitious businessman who doesn’t seem satisfied with his own success in creating his circus of attractions.

He wants the approval of the upper classes and sets out to accomplish that goal by launching a tour with singer Jenny Lind (played by Rebecca Ferguson), seemingly oblivious to the fact that he is putting his marriage to Charity (played by Michelle Williams) in serious danger. He, his wife and two daughters were happy when they were poor, but Barnum’s drive to succeed begins to cause problems for his family.

Meanwhile, the circus performers who lifted Barnum to success feel unappreciated as he sets them aside to focus on Jenny Lind. Zac Efron plays Barnum’s business partner, Phillip Carlyle, who tries to keep the circus successful while Barnum is touring with Lind.

There were some catchy songs in “The Greatest Showman” presented in an entertaining fashion, but I found the movie’s focus on relationships most appealing.

The film, which features a strong cast, highlights romance storylines between Barnum and his wife and Carlyle and circus performer Anne Wheeler (played by Zendaya).

“The Greatest Showman” also focuses on the importance of family and the feeling of belonging, especially concerning the circus performers who always felt like outsiders until coming together as a group of people who could appreciate what the others have experienced in life.

John Gillispie is the public relations director for the Huntington Museum of Art.