DIR: Clint Eastwood • WRI: Marshall Brickman • PRO: Clint Eastwood, Graham King, Robert Lorenz • ED: Joel Cox, Gary D. Roach • DOP: Tom Stern • CAST: John Lloyd Young, Erich Bergen, Michael Lamenda, Vincent Piazza, Christopher Walken
Why is Clint Eastwood directing a musical?? As someone who is very familiar with Eastwood’s filmography as both an actor and a director, this question immediately came to mind when I heard he was directing an adaptation of hit Broadway musical Jersey Boys. Dirty Harry doing show tunes just somehow seems wrong, but after scratching the surface a little bit, it starts to make a lot more sense. Eastwood it turns out has always been infatuated with music, from studying it after leaving High School to composing the scores to some of his most famous films such as Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby. He also directed the Biopic of Jazz Musician Charlie Parker in the 1988 film Bird, so it’s safe to say a musical novice he is not. Unfortunately for me this newly found information only serves to augment my disappointment at this messy adaptation.
Jersey Boys chronicles the rise and fall of popular ’60s pop band The Four Seasons and their lead singer Frankie Valli. The film is shown to us in a linear chronology from the band’s original incarnation as The Four Lovers, to their development into The Four Seasons and the huge success they enjoyed throughout the ’60s, and the subsequent fallout between the members of the band.
The film is scored wonderfully by the band’s biggest hits as we are treated to almost all of their hits, including “Oh What a Night” and “Can’t Take My Eyes off You”; believe me you’ll know most of them, and you’ll find yourself You Tubing the songs incessantly for days after viewing the film.
Despite the strong musical numbers the film as a whole never really works. Its major downfall is that it bites off more than it can chew. It tries to cover too much ground from 1951 to 1990 leading it to fall flat in the middle and closing stages after a bright and vibrant start. The film jumps so quickly and loosely between situations and time periods that it leaves the audience member slightly confused. Numerous characters end up being very underdeveloped, the most striking of which is Frankie’s wife whose development from the love of his life to an embittered alcoholic goes wholly unexplained. The four members of the band act as narrators at different stages of the film, addressing the audience directly in an attempt to contextualise what we’re seeing on screen, but it fails to make the film in any way cohesive.
The cast is comprised mainly of unknown actors. John Lloyd Young is solid in the main role of Frankie Valli after his Tony award-winning turn in the Broadway version, with the role allowing him to show off an incredible vocal range. Other notable performances include Vincent Piazza as the troublesome band member Tommy De Vito who can never seem to break free from his roots in petty crime and the always delightful Christopher Walken as Gyp De Carlo, an emotional Mafia Boss who serves as the band’s Guardian Angel.
The film does have its moments, particularly one or two great ones involving a well-known Italian American actor who was genuinely involved with the band before he broke into acting, I won’t spoil what is a very amusing surprise. Despite this, it has to be said, the film falls in line with a disappointing run of recent films from Eastwood including J Edgar and Hereafter. Let’s hope a return to form is on the near Horizon for the great man.
15A (See IFCO for details)
Jersey Boys is released on 20th June 2014