Movie: The Greatest Showman

"The Greatest Showman"

“The Greatest Showman” is a bold and original musical that celebrates the birth of show business and the sense of wonder we feel when dreams come to life. Inspired by the ambition and imagination of P.T. Barnum, “The Greatest Showman” tells the story of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a mesmerizing spectacle that became a worldwide sensation.

Ever since I saw the teaser for The Greatest Showman, I knew I wanted to watch the film. I love musicals, and it has been so long since a proper movie musical was made, so I knew this was a film I’m going to want to watch in a theater.

And I was not disappointed.

I guess it helped that my expectations were managed. The film came out last year in the United States, and the reviews were less than phenomenal. People didn’t like the fact that The Greatest Showman glossed over the less-than-desirable characteristics of P.T. Barnum. Some thought the film was shoddily edited, and certain story threads were dropped and picked up willy-nilly. And a lot people said it just wasn’t that good. They were all correct.

The Greatest Showman wasn’t good, because it was something else. It was… transcendent.

Don’t get me wrong; the film could use a lot more fixing. Especially when it comes to how the story is told.

The film suffers from having to follow two separate threads from the moment Zac Efron’s character is introduced. Suddenly, on top of the P.T. Barnum main storyline that wanted to deal with inclusivity, acceptance, humility, and contentment–you also had to follow an interracial romance that was completely separate from the already-full Barnum plate.

The characters’ emotions don’t have a linear development; they provide what the script wants to happen, rather than the script following what the characters are feeling. And as such, there are a lot of character development that are waylaid because the film would rather barrel through the plot lines it wants to hit.

There are a thousand and one things you can point out where the film was lacking. Mostly in the storyline, in the character progression, and even in the directing. But there are just as many things to love about the film–mostly because of the cast and their passion for the film they made.

Hugh Jackman, Zendaya, and Keala Settle are truly exceptional in The Greatest Showman. The life they bring to the characters fill out what is lacking in their characters’ emotional development. Zac Efron and Michelle Williams complement their respective partners exceptionally, providing grace and elegance to the turmoil that is the conflict of the film.

The characters breathe because the actors behind them are giving them life. And because of their portrayals, you don’t notice until after the film has ended that said characters aren’t really fully-formed. The cast–all of them, not just the ones I enumerated–are the ones informing the audience of who their characters are; Not the story, nor their decisions in the story, but their acting.

I would also say it’s the cast that brings the songs to life. They inject their vulnerabilities into the songs, making them something more than just the words that accompany the melody. Listen to the dozens of “This Is Me” covers on YouTube, and then listen to Keala Settle’s version. The mix of fear, of uncertainty, and of strength she imbues the song elevates it into an anthem. So much so that you don’t notice how the emotional reprise within the song is abruptly cut short just so the song could go back to being a call to arms.

And then there’s Zac Efron and Zendaya’s “Rewrite the Stars.” There is restraint in the way the sing the song, a restraint that becomes heartbreaking when you see how it is directed on screen. And I mean that in a good way.

If you watch the film, you can see how director Michael Gracey pours love into his staging of the musical numbers. His direction heightens the emotions of the songs that pepper the movie musical. If only he had done the same for the transition scenes, the ones in between the singing.

But there’s not point in focusing on what might have been. The film is made. It is out in theaters. And if you’re looking for a reason to watch The Greatest Showman, watch it for the passion–of the cast, of the director, the choreographers, the costume designers, the production designers, and everyone else involved in the project.

Let their passion inspire you to dream, to accept, and to come alive.

movie: charlie st. cloud

"charlie st. cloud" starring zac efronback in august, i read the book THE DEATH AND LIFE OF CHARLIE ST. CLOUD and i liked it enough that i was looking forward to watch the movie. so i did.

after a few months of waiting, CHARLIE ST. CLOUD is now showing in theaters. i wish i could say it was worth the wait.

first, a recap: CHARLIE ST. CLOUD is the story of charlie, a young man who blames himself for the death of his younger brother sam. he makes a promise to his younger brother that he will never let him go. and he never does. until he meets a girl named tess. and then charlie begins to wonder if there’s something in life he’s missing.

this premise remains in the movie, but for some reason, it doesn’t feel like the same story.

i have this belief that books and movies are separate things, even when they have the same story. i like to pretend that this is so, so that i don’t get disappointed when the movie fails to meet my set expectation. for the most part this works. it didn’t work with CHARLIE ST. CLOUD.

that’s because the movie wants to tell the exact same tale as the book–but it changes a lot of small details that it doesn’t live up to the original story. now, these changes doesn’t really matter if you compare the book and movie side-to-side. the movie’s main plot, of charlie having to choose between life and death, is still the same as the book’s. but because of these changes, the movie feels disjointed, with a lot of superfluous scenes.

one. in the book, charlie and tess are high school classmates, but they only meet again when charlie accidentally disturbs tess at her father’s grave. in the movie, charlie and tess have three other chance meetings before charlie accidentally disturbs tess. it really shouldn’t matter, but these three scenes feel too much like a set-up. which they are. but they’re really not needed as you don’t care much about tess until after that disturbance at the graveyard.

that, and the fact that the change in first meeting also affects how their story ends.

two. in the book, tink is a caring friend who would do everything to help tess. in the movie, you don’t even feel his presence. in fact, an opportunity for drama is missed when they degrade tink’s character from charlie’s foil, to a plot device that would get charlie pushing to search for tess.

"charlie st. cloud" starring zac efronthree. in the book, tess can see sam. and sam even gives his approval for charlie to start dating tess. and this is the biggest “small” change they had done in the movie. because in the movie, sam doesn’t like tess. and we don’t even get an inkling that tess can see sam.

now, for you spoiler-phobes, that’s something they already showed in the trailer. so technically, it’s not a spoiler. technically. take from that what you will.

back to the point i was making.

by making sam not like tess in the movie, you make charlie unlikeable when he starts choosing between sam and tess. sure, a person should always choose to live in the present and not the past, but that doesn’t make tess look any better when she “forces” charlie to pick between her and his dead brother.

the conflict in charlie is more real when charlie has to choose between the brother tess likes, and the girlfriend his brother likes. neither one will want the other gone. and charlie knows that whoever he picks would live with the fact that he picked him/her over the other. it’s a heavier conflict. because both choices affect each other.

whereas in the movie, the choices are of different worlds: one in the world of living, the other in the world of the dead. which one would you pick? it’s not a hard decision, right?

so yes, i have serious issues about the movie. and there i was thinking zac efron was perfect for the role of charlie st. cloud. it’s too bad that he played a different version of charlie.