Film Review: The Greatest Showman
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“Does it bother you that everything you’re selling is fake?” a newspaper critic asks Barnum after his show, a question easily applied to the film itself. Barnum, a twinkle in his eye, replies “Do the smiles seem fake?”. That, in a nutshell, is what The Greatest Showman is: a slick, uncomplex and feel-good 105 minutes that may not leave much of an impact after the credits roll, but that serve audiences a generous helping of holiday cheer. The film is corny and predictable in the best way, romanticising the life of circus impresario P.T. Barnum, played in perfect tune and with irresistible energy by Hugh Jackman. Since its release the film has come under heavy criticism, focusing on what viewers saw to be a whitewashing of history. The film isn’t particularly progressive because though its messages are all positive, they are overly uncontroversial; The Greatest Showman chooses to sidestep Barnum’s divisive attitudes, and thus does not explore the moral dilemma at the core of his story between offering his performers a better living than otherwise possible, and blatant exploitation. Portrayed instead as a lovable dreamer, family man and champion for inclusivity, Barnum is therefore transformed into an appropriate lead for a film intended as family entertainment.
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