2017 saw Hugh Jackman say goodbye to Wolverine in Logan, one of the best studio films of the year and one of his finest performances. Other than the X-Men character, the Aussie superstar is also known for his love of musicals, having come from a stage background and played the lead in the big screen Les Miserables.
He returns to that passion for his new film, a biopic that recently premiered on a cruise ship (as you do).
Jackman plays entrepreneur P. T. Barnum, a man living in the 1800s with nothing to his name but dreams of a better life. Supported by his devoted wife Charity (Michelle Williams), he takes out a loan and creates what is now known as a circus show, putting people society views as outsiders or freaks into the spotlight. Just as he begins to enjoy success, however, outside prejudice and his own ambition threaten to ruin everything.
Full of colour, music and optimism, it’s safe to say this biopic will find a lot of fans in those looking for spectacle alone. There’s no real edge, no obstacle that can’t be resolved with a big musical number, and that is admittedly charming.
It’s also what makes it feel so superficial.
Huge liberties are taken with Barnum’s story, mostly with his motives for starting a circus in the first place. The film frames him as a kind of philanthropist – taking bearded ladies or conjoined twins and giving them a place where they aren’t mocked, but celebrated.
It’s a lovely way of looking at it, but this kind of airbrushed perception of a very murky industry feels at best naïve, at worst ignorant. Sanitising history can often be worse than confronting it.
If the facts aren’t that important to you, the film’s beautiful visuals will be a pretty distraction. The extravagant sets seem larger than life, and when combined with the exuberance of the cast make it seem like a Broadway musical with a bigger budget.
For his part, Jackman puts his everything into the lead, as he does with every film he makes. Williams is underused as his wife, there mainly to smile and be impossibly patient as he risks their fortunes on a new scheme.
Likewise, Rebecca Ferguson’s role as singing sensation Jenny Lind seems to be to look at Jackman adoringly.
Elsewhere, Zac Efron fits like a glove as Phillip Carlyle, Barnum’s sceptical junior partner. He gets the most pleasing musical number in a bar with Jackman, while his subplot involving his feelings for the circus’ trapeze artist (Spider-Man actress Zendaya) is the closest the film gets to gritty.
It feels incredibly mean to criticise a film that’s so willing to please, but The Greatest Showman just doesn’t have it where it counts.
In the hands of someone like Baz Luhrmann this could have been a very special event.
Without that kind of vision, however, this is simply a diverting side show.
The Greatest Showman is out in the UK on December 26.
The post The Greatest Showman review: Hugh Jackman’s musical biopic falls flat appeared first on News Wire Now.
‘Antebellum’ has a ‘Get Out’ vibe, but doesn’t live up to its twist
“Antebellum” is built around a provocative twist, and it’s a good one — as well as one that definite..
“Antebellum” is built around a provocative twist, and it’s a good one — as well as one that definitely shouldn’t be spoiled even a little. Once that revelation is absorbed, however, the movie becomes less distinctive and inspired, reflecting an attempt to tap into the zeitgeist that made “Get Out” a breakthrough, without the same ability to pay off the premise.
Originally destined for a theatrical run, the movie hits digital platforms trumpeting a “Get Out” pedigree in its marketing campaign, since there’s an overlap among the producing teams.
More directly, the film marks the directing debut of Gerard Bush + Christopher Renz, who have championed social-justice issues through their advertising work. The opening script features a quote from author William Faulkner, whose intent will eventually become clearer: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
If that sounds like a timely means of drawing a line from the horrors of slavery to the racism of today, you’ve come to the right place.
The story begins on a plantation, where the brutal overseers carry out grisly punishments against those tilling the fields. A few have just tried to escape, led by Veronica (Janelle Monae), and they pay a heavy price for their resistance, which does nothing to curb her defiance.
Also written by Bush + Renz, the script take too long before revealing what makes “Antebellum” different, but the middle portion — a “The Twilight Zone”-like phase when it’s hard to be sure exactly what’s going on — is actually the film’s strongest. (Even the trailer arguably gives away too much, so the less one knows, the better.)
The final stretch, by contrast, veers into more familiar thriller territory, and feels especially rushed toward the end, leaving behind a host of nagging, unanswered questions. That provides food for thought, but it’s also what separates the movie from something like “Get Out,” which deftly fleshed out its horror underpinnings.
Although the filmmakers (in a taped message) expressed disappointment that the movie wasn’t making its debut in theaters, in a strange way, the on-demand format somewhat works in its favor. In the press notes, Bush says the goal was “to force the audience to look at the real-life horror of racism through the lens of film horror. We’re landing in the middle of the very conversations that we hoped ‘Antebellum’ would spur.”
“Antebellum” should add to that discussion, so mission accomplished on that level. Monae is also quite good in her first leading film role (she did previously star in the series “Homecoming’s” second season), but otherwise, most of the characters remain underdeveloped.