The Greatest Showman – Truly the Greatest Show in 2017 (Spoiler Alert)

Do you still have a dream? Or are you already being lost in a tough life? If it is the later one, then I highly recommend you watch this movie, the only one I went to see twice in the theater in 2017.

(Source: Fox Family Entertainment on YouTube)

Because it’s kinda reminding me of the dream I’m pursuing. Moreover, the music of this movie is extremely fascinating, and with its well-designed dancing truly made it become the best show in 2017.

Ignoring Rotten Tomatoes, this film is definitely worth watching in the theater. The feedback is not quite good from the critics, however, it’s the opposite on the audience side. Just like what happens in the movie, is it a coincidence? Or the critics are just being “critics?” Some people have criticized this story as being too simple or too old-fashioned, so what? Do you daily life always comes with something new? Or full of innovation and creativity? This is a musical, not a biography, even it is inspired by Mr. Barnum’s story, but not entirely. How the lyrics replacing the lines smoothly is more significant. Some have said this storied background is in the 19th century, but the music and dance do not match the time except some of the clothes. Again, so what? Again, it is not a biography! At least it never distracts me at all, on the contrary, it is a musical that can make me both visually and aurally satisfied.

(Source: Fox Family Entertainment on YouTube)

The main characters:

1. “The Greatest Show”:

(Source:That Guy on YouTube)

This is not only the opening of the show in the movie but also a welcome that was given to the movie audience. The astonish opening impressed with the imposing, exciting, and powerful song and dance then turns down slowly to introduce the great entertainer’s tragic childhood. The fancy suit becomes a combination of the reflection of a poor boy with a hole in his shoe standing in front of the window and of an apparel store, telling us our boy has a very poor life but still has a dream. Mr. Barnum’s father is a tailor hired by a rich family. Although Barnum stays with them, he does not truly “live” with the rich family obviously. The master has a daughter Charity, who is around Barnum’s age and has been receiving hard times from his father, and treated Barnum like a filthy rat. The audience would care about Barnum right away when seeing him get a heavy slap from the master after Barnum makes his daughter laugh and takes responsibility. Later, Charity sneaks out to see Barnum as he stays at a beach sadly. A daughter from a rich family likes a poor boy, how cliche, but who doesn’t like it?


2. “A Million Dreams”:

(Source: Fox Family Entertainment on YouTube)

This song makes the story go forward the most in the whole movie. From two adorable youths hanging out in an abandoned mansion as their secret base to Charity is sent away for boarding school, and Barnum’s father passes away. Barnum becomes homeless and tries to steal a bread but gets caught, then a weird-face freak gives Barnum an apple and a warm smile! And I did realize the importance of the apple until watching again. The apple later reminds Barnum that there’s a freak had warmed his heart more than everyone else and later becomes the key to his successful show.

Barnum soon joins the crew of building railways for living and goes back to Charity’s home as a grownup to take Charity away after saving some money. Even though Charity’s father still insults Barnum and believes Charity will come home after being tired of Barnum’s life of “nothing.” On the way to their apartment, Barnum stares at a couple having expensive dinner through the window of a restaurant, but Charity pulls him away and dances with him on the street and enjoys dinner sitting on the floor with a tablecloth. All of these have shown that Charity doesn’t care about being poor at all while Barnum does.

3. “A Million Dreams (Reprise)”:

(Source: Lise LS_01 on YouTube)

Barnum goes home after he is dismissed due to the bankruptcy of his employer and sees the water leaking from the ceiling, he walks upstairs gloomily to see his wife playing with his daughters on the top of the apartment. He can only tell his wife the bad news and blames himself for not giving her a better life, however, Charity says she already has all the things she needs – a good husband and two magical daughters. The thing he showed Charity when they were children becomes the only gift Barnum can show her daughter. When he hears his daughter wanted to learn ballet, Barnum and Charity can only look at each other but cannot be able to make it come true, now the audience would have even more compassion with this family. His daughter’s dream and singing remind Barnum that he once had a dream and he wants to make these dreams come true, including his daughters’.

With the proposal and the document from his former employer when dismissed (In fact, the assets lists in the document had actually sunk in the South China Sea due to typhoon.) , Barnum finally opens an exotic museum with the loan from the bank. Nevertheless, the statues are not appealing enough to make people pay for the tickets. Barnum comes home and sees his wife is asleep on the couch holding a booking sheet in her hand. Then he goes to check his daughters and they tell him the museum should have something alive like mermaid and unicorn. Here is not only trying to show how innocent and adorable his daughters are but also an easter egg I guess. Mr. Barnum in history was famous on his museum of “freaks”, one of the most famous exhibits was a fake “FeeJee Mermaid.” Barnum later sees an apple on his desk when he was sitting there and worrying about the business, he takes the apple, looks at it and decides to visit the dwarf he met at the bank.


4. “Come Alive”:

(Source: Fox Family Entertainment on YouTube)

After convincing the dwarf to work with him, Barnum began to seek “freaks” for his new business. He found Lettie, a bearded lady with beautiful singing voice; Anne and W. D. Wheeler, brother-and-sister trapeze artists, and many other freaks. During the recruiting and preparing the first show, and how did he use his former employer’s worthless document as collateral, these all show the “flaw.” Even the first was super successful, however, got pretty bad feedback on the newspaper from the critic and called it “fake,” and “circus.”  Barnum not only changed the museum to a circus and asked the critic “Does the smile on the audience’s face look fake to you and when’s last time you laugh?” Yes, Barnum is not a 100% honorable man, but he has brought joy and happiness to the audience. It’s easy to criticize but hard to entertain others, the smile on the face of the audience is the most valuable and precious feedback to a showman. Look what happened now on Rotten Tomatoes, only 55% from all the critics while 90% of the audience likes it. Who cares about the critics when most of the audience enjoy the moment.

5. “The Other Side”:

(Shin Kudo on YouTube)

After the success, Barnum became rich and bought the abandoned mansion and remodeled. Not only his dream had come true but also her daughters’. After his daughter’s ballet performance, Barnum saw his daughter has been bullied orally for her late beginning of ballet class and substandard performance. I believe this also plants the thought of creating a more popular and better show.  Barnum, therefore, eagerly invited Carlyle to join his circus. Then they have an “intense negotiation” by singing and dancing, this is one of my favorite scenes about this movie, the performance perfectly shows the back-and-forth negotiation from orally to physically. To make the success of this performance, the bartender’s “assistance” can’t be ignored.  Finally, Carlyle joined as a junior partner with 10% of the income. Carlyle fell in love at first sight when he later went to the circus with Barnum and saw Anne. I honestly didn’t recognize she’s the same actress in Spider-man: Homecoming, that movie totally wasted such a good actress. As an ex-Disney star, she perfectly showed her talents in this movie!!

Not only Barnum helped Carlyle to see the other side, so did Carlyle to the circus. With the help of Carlyle, the circus was able to meet the Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Barnum saw Jenny Lind, a Swedish singer known as “Swedish Nightingale,” and invited her to sing in the United States so eagerly, even without hearing her singing. It’s all because Barnum cared the criticism of being “fake” so much that he wanna bring something “real.” We can see that after Barnum became rich, famous and noble, he began to care about the criticism and wanna be one of them of the circle. His change brings nothing but failure later…

6. “Never Enough”:

(Source:thailandfox on Youtube)

Jenny Lind had her first performance in the United States, an astonishing one under the spotlight, even the critic had to admit Barnum had brought an amazing show. When Jenny Lind was singing, Carlyle stood with the circus and next to Anne and holding her hand slowly under the emotional circumstance. Unfortunately, Carlyle’s parents saw that and talked, and Carlyle just let go of her hand when he saw that, then Anne left immediately when being treated like this. Even Carlyle left his “society” and joined the circus though, apparently, he yet free himself entirely.

During the after-party, Barnum introduced Jenny to his family and also his parents-in-law later when they came to visit and see their granddaughters for the first time. Apparently, Barnum didn’t tell Charity they would come and seemed to invite them in purpose, so he could show his father-in-law how successful he is now and satirizes them. To his father-in-law, Barnum will always be the tailor boy in his eyes and this has driven Barnum wants to be even more successful and causes his failure in the future. Even Charity chose to leave her family but when she sees her husband was blinded with hate and revenge and humiliates her father, no daughter can bear this and she leaves with her daughters. Jenny makes a toast to Barnum right after to ease the embarrassment and told Barnum privately she has a similar background, kind of showing Barnum they have something in common.  The circus freaks would live to join the party and have few drinks before their show, however, Barnum shuts them out with the excuse of the room is too crowded. but Baron can keep them out of the way because of crowding. At this moment, Barnum has changed from a poor boy with love and equality to a rich showman but with hate.

7. “This Is Me”:

(Source: 20th CENTURY FOX SG on Youtube)

After being shut out, the freaks show their sadness, anger, and confidence to the upscale, protesters, and locals, with their powerful singing and dance to tell them there is nothing to be ashamed of. And Anne also glares Carlyle just like telling him this is who she is, love it or not. I can totally feel the power in this song because I was being treated differently by a black cashier on campus in the second month of being in the US, racism and discrimination are still pretty common here. Even now people would still discriminate others based on the color, it’s hard to imagine how much the freaks had suffered at that time.

8. “Rewrite the Stars”:

(Source: Fox Family Entertainment on YouTube)

Barnum has been busy Jenny’s tour after the huge success, and circus has been running by Carlyle. Even Carlyle tries to cover for Barnum, the freaks still complain Barnum leaves without greetings. Then Lettie reminds Carlyle he has something else to do and stops Anne’s brother from getting up from the chair. Carlyle surprises Anne by showing up at a theater and ready for the show, unfortunately, they meet Carlyle’s parents while going upstairs. Anne leaves right away after the humiliation from Carlyle’s father, and Carlyle’s mother tells Carlyle to come back to his “place” Typical parents at that time always define “what is the best for their children” which is usually “the best for themselves.” Carlyle runs back to the circus when Anne returns earlier and is ready to practice trapeze, he hopes Anne could forget all the unpleasant and start over. Nonetheless, no matter how he cares about Anne, no matter how he doesn’t care about the “rules,” after all, Carlyle is from an upscale, has never been through what Anne has been through, and he can never understand how hard for Anne to love a man from the upscale and cared about how others think. How can you rewrite the stars when you don’t understand them, so she chooses to walk away. It is true that no matter how compassionate we could be, we could never feel exactly the same way for what we never been through but happened to others. This reminds me that many celebrities claimed to support (illegal) immigrants, but what did they do to help? Did they really spend time on understanding what happened to these people, or just to have a better reputation by showing sympathy?

9. “Tightrope”:

(Source: table w on Youtube)

Barnum is leaving with Jenny for her tour, not even stay one more second for his little girls chasing after the Carriage. He also doesn’t show up at her daughter’s ballet performance, which she has become a much better dancer and wants her parents to be proud of her. When she sees the empty seat next to her mother, it is heartbroken to see her face is full of disappointing but tries so hard not to show it on the stage. The great mansion now can only see the mother and the daughters, and the mother dance by herself while it used to be always a lovely dance with her husband. It’s ironic comparing to they dancing on the street when going to their apartment from Charity’s home. Now he’s the Barnum who only cares about the business, success and himself, not the old Barnum who loved his family with all his heart…


10. “Never Enough (Reprise)”:

(Source: Click Movie Clip on YouTube)

Jenny reads the praise on the newspaper and celebrates the achievement with Barnum, then they stare at each other on the couch. I believe there’s one moment Barnum does hesitate and think about kissing Jenny, but the hesitation and thinking help him to realize that he has built all these for his dream and family, not for the woman in front of him now instead. Barnum suddenly decides to quit and believe Jenny can finish her tour without him, which makes Jenny feel angry and humiliated. and wanna end the tour. Barnum, however, tries to calm her down by telling her “She can’t quit because he risks everything and this would ruin him.” That’s the worst consolation a man could ever say, not even mention to say that to a “woman”. Jenny sings the song again later but with tears this time, she invites Barnum to come to the stage to take a curtain together and ambushes him with a kiss. “It means goodbye,” she says, I believe there’s a double meaning, one is goodbye to Barnum, and the other one is goodbye to his business and maybe his life as well.

Fire and rising from the ashes

11. From Now On:

(Source: Fox Family Entertainment on YouTube)

Barnum comes home and meets his family at the station and claims he comes back earlier due to missing them and sees the fire squad rush towards the circus. The circus is on fire because the protesters burn down the place after the conflict becomes fighting. Barnum runs back and checks if everyone’s alright, but no one sees Anne. Carlyle runs into the fire for rescue and Anne shows up from nowhere a few seconds later, then it’s Barnum’s turn to rush into and save severe injured Carlyle. The next day, Barnum sits on the ashes of the building, and the critic comes to show his caring even he never likes Barnum’s show. Barnum believes he can rise again after Jenny finishes her tour and collect the investment back, unfortunately, the critic shows him the newspaper with the news that Jenny quits and it has become a scandal and the picture of the kiss. Barnum runs home immediately and sees Charity already packs and is ready to go back to her father’s home. Barnum tries to explain the kiss, but what Charity cares is Barnum can at least tell her and she doesn’t mind taking a huge risk since they did that at the very beginning.  She trusts her husband but he has changed and become selfish, he loves no one but himself now. Honestly, what a good wife!!

Barnum is frustrated and sits at the bar lonely, and declares the money’s gone when the freaks come in. Lettie tells Barnum that he may not build the circus for them but himself, however, he did give them a “home,” a family, and treated them as equal. What they want is, home, and fully enlightens Barnum. He looks at the pictures on the wall, he realizes that family is the reason why he has come this far, not those celebrities, even kings and queens he had met. He rushes into his father-in-law’s house immediately and wants to have his family back. His father-in-law still gives him a hard time like always, but this time he has his daughters’ help and goes to the beach to find his wife. Last time, it was Charity full of sympathy and guilty to come to see the kind and lovely Barnum, but it is Barnum comes with guilty to see his great wife and ask for forgiveness, a strong comparison.

12. “The Greatest Show”- The Last Show

(Source: Fox Family Entertainment on YouTube)

Back to the ashes, Barnum knows and thinks there will be no bank would loan him money anymore with his financial crisis and bad reputation now. Then Carlyle shows up after Anne’s intensive care, and claims he can do that and asks 50/50 distribution as a “partner.” Even Carlyle can borrow some money from the bank, it is still hard to build a new building for the circus. Barnum soon comes with the idea of setting up a tent on at the dock to have the show continue. Barnum begins his last amazing show and hands it over to Carlyle, all he wants to do now is to watch her girls grow up after he finally knows the great and true meaning of family. Home is never the building, where is the people who love you and you love, where is home!!!

Warm and simple story, astonishing dances, special wardrobe, beautiful songs, and well-written script and lyrics, The Greatest Show is absolutely a great movie you cannot miss, go to the theater now and enjoy the moment, a moment has no words can perfectly describe!!

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