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Greatest show, man

Miriam Orr

I saw the Greatest Showman at the beginning of 2018, on New Year's Day. I tossed around the idea of writing my first review on this movie, or Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and ultimately chose the chart-topper, Episode VIII, with the promise of getting back to the year's dazzling new musical staring Hugh Jackman, Zendaya, and Zac Efron.

The Greatest Showman is the muscial retelling of P.T. Barnum - that's right, the legendary, circus ringmaster - and his success. Hugh Jackman stars at Barnum, a down-on-his-luck husband and father of two daughters, who loses his job as what appears to be a transcriptionist for a shipping company. After having always promised his once-prestigious wife a life of happiness and wealth, Barnum gets the idea for an attraction unlike anything people of the era had ever seen.

I won't give too much else away, but I will say that the film is an inspirational, upbeat musical that is much needed in a film industry that survived 2017 predominantly on re-makes and sequels.

As I was watching the film, I was struck with two thoughts midway through. Firstly, "I didn't know Hugh Jackman could sing and dance!" and secondly, "This has to be one of the greatest films of our time." I whispered both to my mother as we sat in the theatre, but I am, to this very moment, still convinced she was mesmerized and was unable to give me a direct response.

There is a framework, developed by scholar Joseph Campbell, which involved the monolyth, or, the hero's journey. This ideology blends with narrology and comparative mythology, and is the common template of a broad category of stories which involve a hero who goes on an adventure, and wins a victory due to decisions made from a crisis, and then comes home changed or transformed. Though Campbell originally developed the 12 Stages, the study originated in 1871 with anthropologist Edward Taylor. Since then, writers and storytellers throughout the years have used the framework to develop engaging characters and stories that stick with us and stand the test of time.

What makes this ideology so intriguing is that it seems to be a formula for human beings. The Greatest Showman, for instance, follows a ragged and desperate P.T. Barnum, who is desperate to change the world for his family - and does so, all because he made a choice in a crucial moment. He went on an adventure, and became a hero to many, and his story has touched people to this very day.

The power of story is astronomical - it can inspire greatness, influence curiosity, and transform people. It is no wonder that it has passed through history as one of the greatest modes of communication -  entire cultures have survived due to education derived from communicative narration.

All that being said, The Greatest Showman is a treat for the entire family. It offers an all star cast, strong script, precision choreography, and a soundtrack that has been No. 1 on the Billboard Album chart for two weeks in a row, according to the New York Times. It's original song, "This is Me", won a Golden Glove on Jan. 7. It's soundtrack is alone the first to be No. 1 for two weeks in a year and a half.

It's a show you and yours definitely don't want to miss, folks.

 


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