The Greatest Showman

The Greatest Showman (Michael Gracey, 2017) 4/5

Contemporary musicals are essentially the rarest of filmic breeds. They are either reboots of older classics or adaptations of great stage productions from around the world. What is more common is when these are fused with popular historic figures and this fusion works well when that person was linked with show business. Michael Gracey’s directorial debut is a show stopping adventure through tposter-largehe weird and wonderful eyes of P.T Barnum and his eclectic mix of performers.

Scepticism did almost overtake me prior to watching this Hugh Jackman star vehicle, but I persisted, and I’m very glad that I did. From the cinematography, acting, editing, and performances everything here works so well that it is seamless in the action. Jackman is no stranger to the spotlight of the stage and thrives her as the protagonist as through dance numbers, all of his skills as a performer are brought out in full force. He carries this movie with aplomb (I love that word!) and bringing Zac Efron onboard to entice a younger crowd (clever marketing), plus throwing the added class of Michelle Williams adds another dimension to this already celebrated canon.

In essence, this film is about inclusivity and diversity, which is a little more than topical at the moment in time. I won’t go into that too much (*ahem* Trump, *ahem* Harvey Weinstein) and the songs show a very strong reflection of this zeitgeist. Fox made a very clever hire of Pasek and Paul, who are fresh off their win for the – dare I say it, slightly dull – La La Land at last years Oscars. Their songs are simply infectious and you will be singing all of the way home. Of course, it does help that the screenplay is also written by Jenny Bicks (Sex and the City vet) and Bill Condon (Dreamgirls and Chicago).

Of course, it can be very difficult to balance the gritty reality of the actual figure and the glitz of movie musical. Sure, some bits are glossed over with glitter, but this movie is all about escapism. If you’d like a more pronounced musical biopic, I’d direct you to ‘Walk the Line’ for example.

There are shades of Baz Luhrmann here too and Moulin Rouge is clearly something they wanted to emulate, not just with the rooftop dancing, but also with it’s feverish pace and fast editing.

In sum, whilst The Greatest Showman might lean a little too much on the ‘show’ aspects and not on the murkier sides of Barnum. This movie is an escapists dream with a very powerful message of inclusion in a time where not everybody is getting the representation or safety they deserve.

Super Size Me

Super Size Me (Morgan Spurlock, 2004)

Documentaries are made in order to reveal to the audience the truth about a specific institution or event. In the case of Super Size Me the fast food industry is laid bare for the entire world to see. McDonalds is a global corporation producing fast food for millions of people every single day. This lays the groundwork for the entire narrative of the film, as Spurlock himself, sacrifices his health in order to highlight the detrimental effects of this industry not only on the human body, but also of the society around us. As of 2011, the company had made in excess of 27 Billion dollars from well over 33,000 locations worldwide. The whole reason behind this documentary is to highlight America’s obesity problem and to understand the power of fast food companies over the average consumer.

Throughout the film, the dangers of this food become apparent when Spurlock has to eat it for very meal. Now, many of you will say that if you eat in moderation then you will be fine. I agree with this! However, although this is an extreme experiment it does signify that instead of eating a healthy, balanced diet, people will sometimes always go for the quick option and have fast food. The social implications of this are immense, as morbid obesity is becoming rife around the world and not just centred on America anymore. Even though Super Size Me was released in 2004, the reverberations of the film led many governments to rethink their stance on the fast food industry. Indeed, the chains themselves began to take notice of the negative attention they were receiving and began to implement healthier options on their menus. Whether this will stem the tide in the long term we shall have to wait and see, but what it does signify is that this film has proved a powerful enough tool in orchestrating government and corporal change.

As Spurlock munches and slurps through the entire McDonalds menu, it becomes apparent that the food is making him ill. One scene highlights this where he becomes physically nauseous of the burger he is about eat in his car. After one bite he is overcome, opens the door and vomits all over the street. This pivotal scene is one that really stayed with me after the film and one that heightens the dangerous side affects of the fast food industry. In true documentary fashion, the power lies in the cinematography. As the camera lingers over the vomit on the street to an almost distasteful degree, we the audience are forced to witness his deteriorating health.

The main message to take away from the film is simple. Fast food is completely acceptable in moderation, however when you frequently eat it, it will seriously harm your wellbeing. As such, Spurlock’s film is a great example of documentary filmmaking as it pushes the boundary of representation and challenges the doctrine of a multinational corporation. Indeed, this film does more than merely documents a month of eating fast food; it challenges us to think carefully about what we put into our mouths on a daily basis and the wider social impact that it can have on our lives.