Jersey Boys (2014)

jerseyboys_2014_poster
Jersey Boys (2014)
  • Time: 134 min
  • Genre: Biography | Drama | Musical
  • Director: Clint Eastwood
  • Cast: Christopher Walken, John Lloyd Young, Jeremy Luke

Storyline:

Jersey Boys is a musical biography of the Four Seasons-the rise, the tough times and personal clashes, and the ultimate triumph of a group of friends whose music became symbolic of a generation. Far from a mere tribute concert (though it does include numbers from the popular Four Seasons songbook), Jersey Boys gets to the heart of the relationships at the center of the group-with a special focus on frontman Frankie Valli, the small kid with the big falsetto. In addition to following the quartet’s coming of age as performers, the core of the show is how an allegiance to a code of honor learned in the streets of their native New Jersey got them through a multitude of challenges: gambling debts, Mafia threats and family disasters. Jersey Boys is a glimpse at the people behind a sound that has managed to endure for over four decades in the hearts of the public.

2 reviews

  • Often the point of a movie version of a beloved musical is to give more story and detail than the stage version. Clint Eastwood surely gives more emphasis to the story. For fans of the musical it’s fascinating to watch the characters of each singer brought to life in a less rushed manner than on stage where the story is more quickly handled that it’s secondary to the music. In the movie the mob connection and role of each singer is clearly shown. The period detail is good and the actors and singers are all terrific having been picked from various stage productions.

    Unfortunately this shift in focus is what brings a damper to the overall feel compared to the musical. The story of the struggle to succeed is interesting but the break up of the group and the family troubles of Frankie Valli are depressing. The biggest fault was what Clint did to “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” by linking Frankie Valli’s daughter’s death to the song and having the performance in a ballroom. In the musical it was a grand happy build up and the feel good climax of the whole show. In the movie it felt so anti climactic.

    Overall it’s a wonderful thing to have the great songs of Jersey Boys captured on screen for immortality. So despite the faults it’s still worth watching for sure.

  • Considered a flop back in 1969, Clint Eastwood’s role in Paint Your Wagon was probably the last time he had anything to do with musically in the world of cinema (except for directing Bird and the fact that Dirty Harry had a hand in composing the score for Mystic River). Now I wouldn’t call his new film Jersey Boys (the flick I’m reviewing) unwatchable. But I know there are some critics and audience members out there that might think otherwise. They would almost be inclined to label this thing “Paint Your Jersey.” Anyway, what we have featured here (at two plus hours), is a standardized biopic based on an award winning play, a play about a pop group (The Four Seasons) I grew up listening to despite being born in the mid-70’s (what can I say, I’m an old soul).

    Resembling an early timeline akin to Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas and shades of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Cotton Club (the 1960’s version of course), Jersey Boys chronicles New Jersey’s favorite sons, the inaugural boy band The Four Seasons. “Boys” takes you through the early years of the group’s inception, their connection to the mob, and everything else leading up to Frankie Valli’s solo performance with 1967’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” The lead actor John Lloyd Young, does a great job of portraying lead singer Valli. He may not look like him (he looks more like a young Anthony LaPaglia than Valli) but plays the role with a straight faced discipline. Plus, his voice is not too shabby.

    The biggest misstep with Jersey Boys however, can be found in the tiresome narration by each member of the band. Instead of having their voices be in the background, they all look into the camera and explain various events that happened during their tenure (Ray Liotta did this in the previously mentioned Goodfellas but he didn’t commit overkill like these guys do). It becomes laughable at some point and eye rolling. I’ve never met Clint Eastwood but if I did, I seriously would have told him to tone it down. Oh and there’s another laughable element throughout in which almost every outdoor scene literally looks fake as if it was blatantly filmed on a sound stage (rather than harboring the look of an actual location). Production values suffer and that’s never been the case in films directed by the so-called “man with no name” (ha ha).

    Now Eastwood in my opinion, should stick with making Westerns or heavy dramas anyway. I do give him credit though for directing Jersey Boys at such a fast clip (which is not like him). Until the film’s second half turns sluggish and draggy (the same holds true for his directional stint Changeling in 2008), “Boys” starts out with a lot of energy as true story events bounce relentlessly from one scene to the next. The unbridled Hollywood legend does a good job of showcasing the various performance scenarios. He does the conventional thing by having the camera slowly glide by them as they belt out their hits. He doesn’t do a lot with close-ups. Nevertheless, it works to a degree. But as always, he loves to shoot sequences with soft, white lighting to go along with a lot of black and white background hues. Even if his movies have mounds of energy, the look is somewhat drab, dark, and dreary. And about the weak second half, it’s plagued with your typical musical biopic clich├ęs. You know, the drugs, the conflict between band members, the unhappy wives of rock stars, the rise and fall of musical icons, yada yada yada. Jersey Boys contains a lot of this but inhabits no potent, emotional connection between the viewer and itself. It’s a vehicle better served as a documentary on VH1 or the Biography Channel (if you know what I mean).

    If anything, the biggest reason to watch this thing is to embrace its smooth blend of storytelling in the first hour and of course, the music. It’s timeless and the band is well deserving of their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame status (The Four Seasons get inducted towards the end of the running time and the makeup on each of the actor’s faces looks like bad, white powder plastered all over). In conclusion, as an exercise in true story escapism, these “boys” get a muted, mixed review from me.

    Of note: look for Christopher Walken playing a tolerant, sympathetic mob boss (he’s really in his element here) and a cameo by Eastwood himself that’s not what you think (he’s in a movie playing on an old television set during the first 30 minutes of “Boys” and I couldn’t figure out which one it was).

    Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars

    Check out other reviews on my blog: http://www.viewsonfilm.com

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