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“the greatest showman” movie review

Greatest Showman

I am so conflicted about my feelings for The Greatest Showman.

I should hate it because I strongly believe elephants and other animals have no place in the circus.

I should hate it because, from all accounts, P.T. Barnum was not a man to be admired.

I should hate it because there’s really a lot wrong with the story.

And yet I loved it.

I loved the big production numbers and the anthem-like songs about empowerment.

I loved the sense of wonder and awe.

I loved the performers and the love stories and the daring feats.

I credit a lot of my feelings to the rousing soundtrack by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who won an Oscar for La La Land (which, I’m sorry to say, left me cold except for Emma Stone’s imagining of a different life toward the end of the movie) and a Tony for Dear Evan Hansen (which I’m finally seeing on Broadway next month).

The songs in The Greatest Showman are ones I would actually listen to. When the Bearded Lady proudly belts out This Is Me — “When the sharpest words wanna cut me down/I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out/I am brave, I am proof/I am who I’m meant to be, this is me” — she validates everyone who’s ever felt like a “freak,” sending a powerful message of acceptance.

If that helps one viewer feel better about themselves, I don’t care if the story takes liberties with the truth.

The Greatest Showman

In fact, I think it’s best to watch The Greatest Showman as simply a movie — not a biography, not a history lesson, not a true story.

If you just take it at face value and forget Hugh Jackman is supposed to be portraying the man responsible for what ultimately turned into the now-defunct Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, you will leave the theater smiling and humming.

“People come to my show for the pleasure of being hoodwinked,” Barnum explains to a journalist in the film. And, oh, what pleasure it is.

You can call it hoodwinked or call it magic, but I was happily swept away in the whole spectacle that is The Greatest Showman. At a time when we could all use a little escape, I hope you’ll let yourself be, too.


  1. This is on my must see list – thanks for posting.

  2. Susan R Mayson says:

    My 21 year old wants to see it this holiday break. I tend to think that it was just a different time in American history, when we were not as “woke” as the kids are saying these days. In a growing America, animal abuse was not on our minds because we were trying to survive ourselves. So I’ll go see this movie, and be grateful for how we have, in some ways, evolved. In so many ways we have so much farther to go.

  3. Peter prestipino says:

    Awesome. Exciting, and I want to see it again and again. So beautifully scored. I totally enjoyed it. It brought me home to my childhood and the circus. There was no indication of animal abuse in this film, it was about the people and their struggles and growth. Love love loved it!

  4. I SO wanted to see this! Now I will! Thank you!

  5. Waiting to see this movie. The trailer looks promising.

  6. I agree. I feel like I should not want to see this but I do.

  7. I think that is the beauty of movies, the show and ultimately the circus. It allowed people to escape their circumstances, if only for a short moment. I get the fact that people did bad things to animals, but people did all kinds of crazy things back then they wouldn’t do now. Glad you loved the movie and it had a positive message to relay.

  8. sounds like you say a chance to escape. I have always loved the circus and I believ this movie would be great for a history buff

  9. I have been hearing really good things about this movie. I also have conflicted feelings about the circus. I think I would enjoy seeing this 🙂

  10. I so want to see this movie. I have hoped to go during Christmas break but it didn’t work out. Love, Love, Love Hugh Jackman.

  11. I am really excited to see this movie. It looks amazing and I have been told it’s just as great as it looks.

  12. I’m going to see this today, and I’m so excited. I’ve heard great things, but like you, even before seeing it, I’m already conflicted. I 100% believe in the protection of elephants, and PT Barnum was definitely not a good man, but I know that it was made for entertainment and a lot of it just needs to be taken at face value. I have a feeling I’m going to be a big fan of the movie though.

  13. I saw the trailer for this last week, and I really want to go and see it at the cinema. And now you’ve persuaded me to definitely buy a ticket. It sounds fab!

    Louise x

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