The Greatest Showman, starring Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, and Zac Efron, rated PG
–Review by Ashley Linne
If you enjoy musicals such as Moulin Rouge or Newsies, you will love The Greatest Showman. If you hate musicals, you will still enjoy The Greatest Showman, but you’ll have to suspend disbelief a little more than the rest of us. (Said with a smile!) Hugh Jackman shines in this adaptation of the visionary P. T. Barnum’s origin story.
The film is visually stunning from costumes to choreography, and the music is spectacular and moving. I am going to have the soundtrack on repeat for a while. A whole review could be written on the song lyrics alone!
The Greatest Showman tells a tale from the past but explores several pertinent and relevant themes to our culture today. The ones that stood out to me the brightest were those of belonging and being chosen.
The film highlights the fact that true belonging requires a commitment to authenticity. The circus members are accustomed to being rejected and despised by everyone, including their own families. But they remain true to themselves and celebrate their uniqueness, eventually forming their own family. Barnum’s character begins in authenticity but ends up stumbling as he attempts to fill his need for belonging with show business instead of relationships.
Barnum hand-picks his first “oddities,” people who are different and can be highlighted for those differences. Eventually Barnum exploits these people for their uniqueness, but they take a stand for themselves and refuse to allow anyone to diminish their dignity. Barnum makes some other major mistakes as he falls further into his fantasy world, and eventually his life and work come crashing down in ashes (literally).
The tables turn, and we find the circus members seeking out the fallen Barnum and choosing to extend grace to him. This gives him the courage and strength to rebuild. In the end, Barnum chooses his family over his show. He finds redemption and belonging with his family, especially with his wife, the one who chose him (and whom he chose) in the first scenes of the film.
Our world is full of people who are considered freaks and oddities, and every one of them wants someone to choose them. They want someone to recognize and celebrate their innate worth and the Imago Dei within them (even if they don’t say it in those words). But this absolutely must be done in ways that do not tokenize or exploit. Most of these individuals are not likely to be found inside our church services or programs. Jesus moved along the margins of society, and now more than ever we as His people need to follow suit.