Jersey Boys directed by Clint Eastwood
My Rating: 3.5 Stars
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout
Cast: John Lloyd Young, Erich Bergen, Michael Lomenda, Vincent Piazza, Christopher Walken
Genre: Musical, Bio
Clint Eastwood’s big screen version of the Tony Award-winning musical tells the story of the four young men from the wrong side of the tracks in New Jersey who came together to form the iconic `60s rock group The Four Seasons. Their trials and triumphs are accompanied by the hit songs that influenced a generation, and are now being embraced by a new generation of fans through the stage musical.
I have not seen this show on Broadway or on Tour, but after seeing the movie, I can confirm that I would in all likelihood enjoy it. I would almost definitely like it better than I liked the movie, although the movie was good.
Here’s the thing about movie musicals: you either have to say we are making this a musical and we don’t care if people randomly break out into song and dance in the middle of the street (AKA Hairspray, West Side Story, The Sound of Music, etc.) OR you have to say this isn’t a musical, it’s just a biographic piece on a group of musicians or people or whoever the subject is. And they occasionally sit down at the piano and sing. It’s the difference between setting the story in a musical world, or the real one.
Jersey Boys wasn’t really in either of those categories. I think that’s why it didn’t quite work for me. I’ve seen a few clips from the Broadway show, and I kept wanting the movie to be more theatrical. I wanted everything to be more of an event.
There were certain elements that were very theatrical, such as when each of the Four Seasons would look straight into the camera and address the audience directly, as they do in the show.
I think perhaps my biggest disappointment was that the movie was more about the story, glossing over the music, cutting songs short, downplaying the theatricality of it all, while I imagine the show is ALL about the music, supported by the story. Not that I can be sure, since I haven’t seen it. While I say these things disappointed me, I don’t believe they were necessarily bad choices. The story is going to be more important in a film. Audiences aren’t going to want to sit through entire songs that aren’t live. I understand all of that. That’s why I believe I would like the musical better.
I was so thrilled when I heard that John Lloyd Young would be playing Frankie Valli. He proved in this performance just exactly why he received a Tony Award for playing this same part on Broadway in 2006. He did a beautiful job not only with his singing, but with the character arc, going from naïve, clueless Frankie to a seasoned and weathered artist with a really difficult and disappointing life. Christopher Walken adds some levity to the mix with his pretty hilarious mobster Gyp DeCarlo, and Vincent Piazza was easily hate-able as Tommy DeVito.
There is magic here as well however; the magic of creating music with extraordinary talent, of creating NEW music, of sharing that music with audiences. That magic and theatricality are what provide most of the charm of this movie, and without them I’m quite sure I would have hated it.
As far as content goes, there’s A TON of language in this, but really very little else objectionable. Some smoking, some drinking, a little adult content, but mostly just language.
Hopefully I’ll be able to see the musical some day soon.
And, because I can’t help myself, here’s a clip of the 2006 Tony Award for Best Musical winning performance from Jersey Boys, led by John Lloyd Young.