“Jersey Boys” (Biography/Drama/Musical: 2 hours, 14 minutes)
Starring: John Lloyd Young, Vincent Piazza, Erich Bergen, Michael Lomenda
Director: Clint Eastwood
Rated: R (Profanity and violence)
Movie Review: Clint Eastwood wanted stage talent for this story about four young men from New Jersey who became The Four Seasons, a popular 1960s musical group. The movie may make a great stage production, but as a screenplay, while interesting, it is not inspiring. However, it does provide nice musical treats.
Tommy DeVito (Piazza), Frankie Valli (Young), Bob Gaudio (Bergen) and Nick Massi (Lomenda) are The Four Seasons. Like their name, they have four different personalities. DeVito has a hot temper. Valli is the fall guy, the group’s lead singer and star. Gaudio is the new gentleman to the group, and Massi is seemingly cool as winter’s breeze. Four personalities merge to form a singing sensation, but they clash constantly. The young grow into their own as they climb the charts and travel together.
Eastwood is an able director. He masterfully gave audiences “Unforgiven” (1992), “Mystic River” (2003), “Million Dollar Baby” (2004) and “Gran Torino” (2008). His movies are consistent. He directs them similarly.
“Jersey Boys” is different. It feels like Eastwood is trying to change his tone, to modernize it, when his usual style is superb. He implants narration by the film’s main stars that is uniquely hip, but distracting at first because narration happens during scenes.
Also, this film appears more about the music, when the characters’ personal lives appear much more interesting. The only character in which we have a chance to know is that of Frankie Valli, as played nicely by Young, but Valli is underplayed also. We get to know him, but no atmosphere exists to care about him. Eastwood just tells these men’s story without much substance.
Besides Young, the cast performs well. Piazza and Walken are especially gratifying. Piazza is the film’s strong man. His acting is intense, delivered with an authentic zeal. In addition, Walken delivers needed comical moments that liven up the film when arguments become too prevalent.
Based on the writings of Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, who wrote this screenplay also, the musical aim is to make the audience feel good. Contrarily, the internal arguing among The Four Seasons does the opposite. The group’s hypermasculinity becomes front and center. Male egos slam into each other repetitively.
Good thing this ensemble created good music, or their story, as presented here, would not be tolerable. These people need intervention.
Considering Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio serve as two of the film’s executive producers, this version of their story is what they wanted apparently.
Grade: C+ (The boys’ constant bickering is irritating, but their music is good.)