Jersey Boys: the tale of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons was the last film I had expected Clint Eastwood to ever attempt, but at the very least I was cautiously optimistic that it would carry the sort of polish that we’ve come to expect from the ageing actor-turned-director. What was witnessed of Jersey Boys was neither an Eastwood picture nor the successful adaptation of the successful Broadway production, but rather a confused biopic riddled with inconsistent filmmaking; a hodgepodge of ham-fisted writing, bemused with a cacophony of whiny, falsetto flinging head scratchers.
A young man with “the voice of an angel” joins a band in order to avoid the thug life. Jersey Boys chronicles the band’s rise to fame and the eventual cracks that begin to fracture one of the hottest American musical acts of the 60s.
This one is purely for music enthusiasts (especially those of The Four Seasons) – the history has been smeared a little in the facts department so consider yourself warned.
The Bottom Line
I will confess to not having even the slightest of interest in Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons – even at the time, their music felt antiquated among more progressive acts of the era. But musical taste not withstanding, what ultimately lets down Jersey Boys is the fact that this production is unrealised in a number of areas, specifically the fact that the hit musical that the film is based on has lost something in translation on its way to the big screen.
The show, from what I have read, tells the story of the Four Seasons from several points of view – that’s the gimmick, and it involves the characters in question breaking the fourth wall to address the audience with their personal thoughts on a particular situation or person. Now this might make perfect sense on the stage, but in the film, the actors’ little soliloquy moments serve little than to point out the obvious. It’s superfluous information that adds next to nothing to what’s transpiring on screen – we know that Tommy is an asshole, so when everyone points it out, it makes no difference. Other times, it’s pointless simply because it’s just repeated gibberish.
So ignoring this interesting but pointless distraction, we get to the story, and while I think that the blueprint for a compelling biopic does loom in the background somewhere, there is no real central struggle to the plot. As mentioned before, Tommy DeVito is painted as the Achilles heel of the group with his bad attitude, mobster tactics, and flagrant spending of lent money – everyone knows that he’s the problem child, but neither Frankie nor anyone else seems smart enough to do anything about it. Later in the film, Eastwood expects us to care about a specific character that never really has any screen time or importance in the story and it just feels forced. What this leaves us with is the by-the-numbers struggle that any musician in the 60′s (or anytime) had to deal with.
With the storytelling component providing little to engage with, ultimately what remains is the idea that either Clint Eastwood really liked the band or he saw some potential when he watched the theatrical production. Unfortunately, no matter how much potential his steely squinted gaze may have fathomed, Jersey Boys simply doesn’t make a cohesive cinematic enterprise. The film is littered with haphazard pacing and the bare minimum of character development, and even thought the performances from the actors are commendable, the use of the original stage cast doesn’t deliver on the sort of performances we’ve come to expect from this genre.
In spite of all this, perhaps the most disappointing aspect of Jersey Boys is how it feels emotionally vacant and devoid of Eastwood’s signature. There was a story to be told here, but taking Jersey Boys from stage to screen wasn’t the one to do it.