When you think Clint Eastwood, you’re usually imagining cowboys, action movies, shoot-ups and explosions, not a doo-wop boy band from the 1960s. But that’s exactly what his latest directorial feature Jersey Boys is all about. Based on the Tony Award winning Broadway musical of the same name, this movie documents the rise and fall of The Four Seasons, the sixties rock band lead by the incredibly talented Frankie Valli. The film covers the formation of the band, from their days as young adults struggling to survive the gangs and crime on the New Jersey streets, to their rise to fame with hits such as Sherry, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You and Big Girls Don’t Cry, to their eventual demise as manager and band member Tommy DeVito runs them into the ground.
There are some really enjoyable aspects of this film, and then some others that I couldn’t quite get on board with. For starters, some of the actors in the film, including Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young), are reprising their roles from the onstage musical. This means that not only are the actors fabulous singers, but they have had a lot of time to perfect their roles and thus connect well with the characters they’re playing. The performances in the film are all great, in particular John Lloyd Young, whose voice is amazing and very similar to the original Frankie Valli, and Vincent Piazza in the role of the self-involved Tommy DeVito. For the most part, the film is good fun; the musical numbers are great and they don’t occur too frequently, only when the characters are actually performing (so there’s no random bursting into song whilst walking down the street… not until the credits, anyway).
Not so great was the fact that the film appeared to me as if I were watching it onstage. Eastwood has failed to remove the cheesiness that generally works very well in a theatre, but appears trite and rather naff on screen. The writing is credited to Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice – the book writers of the original musical – meaning not much has changed between the stage and the cinema, so the screenplay could have been further developed for a smoother transition into a feature film. I also took issue with the whole “breaking the fourth wall” technique, used so the characters can speak directly to the audience and narrate the story. This is another aspect that would have appeared more at home on a musical stage, however it only irritated me in the film, and I feel a regular voice-over would have sufficed. What also lets the film down is the length, which at 134 minutes really starts to drag towards the end. There were definitely scenes that could have been shortened, even cut completely, to ensure interests remained piqued, particularly in the film’s darker moments, of which there are a surprisingly large amount.
I believe fans of the Jersey Boys movie will be impressed with this film adaptation, but for me it just didn’t quite get there. I think the film had the potential to be great, but it was too weighed down by the length, which saw my curiosity waning just as the plot took a more serious turn. But, if you’re a fan of those sixties classics, the musical aspect is fantastic and promises your toes will be a-tapping.
[youtube id=”peqwacC0Y0g” width=”620″ height=”360″]