UK Release Date: 20th June 2014
Runtime: 134 minutes
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writer: Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice
Starring: John Lloyd Young, Vincent Piazza, Erich Bergen, Michael Lomenda, Christopher Walken, Mike Doyle
Synopsis: A musical retelling of the turbulent path to fame of iconic band Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, mixing crime, drama and grit with the glitz and glamour of showbusiness.
If you were picking the ideal director to take the helm of a musical, Clint Eastwood perhaps wouldn’t be the first name that came to mind. However, with this adaptation of Broadway smash hit Jersey Boys, he has proven that when it comes to musicals, he feels very lucky… punk.
Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young) and his badboy friend Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) are local performers, along with friend Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda). They are in and out of prison, aided by their friendship with gangster Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken). In order to take their career to the next level, they team up with songwriter Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) and producer Bob Crewe (Mike Doyle) to become The Four Seasons.
Many reviewers have criticised Jersey Boys for being more interested in the crime and the darkness than the musical numbers. As true as that may be, it also helps the movie to feel like something a bit different, transcending the traditional tropes of the musical genre. This is not a musical that features random bursts of singing; this is a movie about people who sing. As a result, it feels organic and mature.
| "This was 1959. People thought Liberace was just theatrical."
Audiences going into the film looking for a toe-tapping musical romp will be disappointed. This is a crime movie that features singing. John Lloyd Young is wholesome and vulnerable, reprising his stage role as Frankie Valli. He is the anchor at the centre of Jersey Boys, around which the whole narrative revolves. More impressive though, is Vincent Piazza who simmers and seethes as Tommy DeVito in a brilliantly measured performance, full of sleaze and arrogance.
Less successful are some of the peripheral performances from the likes of Michael Lomenda and even the usually reliable Christopher Walken, who here seems like he’s just waiting for the pay cheque. Female characters are shunted to one side and serve as little more than narrative devices to keep the story moving along when the men need a kick up the arse.
The musical numbers are predominantly low-key and this really helps them seem organic. The Four Seasons were always the Jersey Boys of the title, even when they were thrust into the spotlight of fame. Their music was never something glitzy and so, when the last number turns “Oh What A Night! (December 1963)” into a flashmob-esque dance sequence, it all feels a little dishonest.
Despite its silliness, the last number does feature the incredible spectacle of Christopher Walken dancing. And, after this memorable video, everyone wants to see that again.
| "Stolen goods? No, these fell off a truck."
Jersey Boys is nonetheless a film that works hard to balance its musical roots with its desire for drama. Eastwood certainly hasn’t constructed the latest musical hit, but he has produced an entertaining crime movie that deals with the turmoil of life in the spotlight, with a rich vein of music at its heart.
Pop or Poop?
Many film reviewers seem to have taken against Jersey Boys because it wasn’t the film they were expecting. However, it’s a pleasant surprise to see a musical that sits at the other end of the spectrum to the cheesy pleasures (Sunshine On Leith) and perils (Walking On Sunshine) of the genre.
The performances are solid and Clint Eastwood provides a fresh perspective on making a musical film. The focus isn’t on the songs, but that’s okay when everything else is just as fun.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.