Review: ‘Jersey Boys’ delivers nostalgia and magic but not the drama

four seasons singing on stage

In 2005, the classic songs of 1960s pop-rock band The Four Seasons were relived as the musical Jersey Boys made its Broadway debut. Since then, the show has traveled around the world (check out the French version of “Oh What a Night“) and has won 4 Tony Awards. It was only a matter of time that someone would walk by and pick it up for screen adaptation.

Perhaps the most surprising element of the film is the man behind the camera, Clint Eastwood. When people think of the iconic Hollywood legend, they think of films such as Gran Torino and Letters from Iwo Jima, or maybe his Westerns from back in the day — but his name attached to the glamour of musicals-to-movies? Turns out it wasn’t such a bad pairing.

One of the best features of the film is the cast — Eastwood made an executive decision to look for talent from the cast that performed it on stage from Broadway and touring productions. Forgoing Hollywood actors for movie musicals is not a practice many producers employ, seeing how the successes of those like Grease, Chicago and Les Misérables had cast names that were already big in the film industry. Yet having these “no-names” allowed the story to feel raw — it didn’t feel like you would unintentionally associate an actor to a past character that they’ve once portrayed (Catwoman singing “I Dreamed a Dream” anyone?). Eastwood made the movie for what it was supposed to be — all about the music.

poster for jersey boys movieThe best part of the music? Frankie Valli, of course, played by John Lloyd Young, who won the Tony Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Frankie on Broadway in 2006. What a great choice he was for the film — his voice is unmatched and sounds so unreal, mirroring the iconic high-pitched nasal falsetto sound that was once popularized on the radio waves of the ’60s. Watching the music acts on film almost felt like experiencing the real deal. The man’s voice is legit.

The only downfall to John Lloyd Young? He’s 38, and while age “ain’t nuthin’ but a numbah”, the film chronicles Frankie from age 16-60. It’s understandable that make-up can only do so much, but with today’s recent advances, there are plenty of ways to convince the audience when an actor says he’s 16 on film. Or at least, you’d like to hear him say that without looking at some glaring wrinkles. But, small details.

The other great part of the cast was Boardwalk Empire‘s Vincent Piazza (the one exception to Eastwood’s casting rule), who plays the street-smart and deranged Tommy DeVito. His maniacal performance gave the film the much needed emotional roller-coaster ride, but still did not save the film from its lack of drama.

Dreamgirls' Effie

Dreamgirls’ Effie

Musicals tend to side on being either really flashy and fun (Chicago, Mamma Mia) or dramatic and sincere (Les Misérables, Phantom of the Opera). As they make their way onto film, the flow and script go generally unchanged, which works in many cases. Yet I feel like this is where movies may excel — being able to tell a story detailed enough to give the viewers a full, immersive and emotional experience, such as Dreamgirls.

There were so many opportunities in the film that would have given the producers and writers a chance to really dive more into the drama. Two under-utilized roles in the film were Frankie’s wife and daughter, who would have given us an anchor for Frankie’s sadder moments in his life, which in turn inspired his musical career with the Four Seasons.

A lead singer’s broken home is not a new beat to walk to, however it’s hard to feel empathetic when a sad moment happens to a supporting character, pivotal to the story, when the film hardly gave them any screen time. This movie is one of those movies where it would have able to excusable for a longer-length film for the sake of a full run-down of emotions. The movie is already a little over 2 hours, but I still left the theater a bit unsatiated.

But if you came here for the music, you won’t leave disappointed. If you’re not familiar with The Four Seasons or Frankie Valli, you’ll find yourself saying “Oh wait, they sung that song?” as the music they’ve written inspired decades of more music and songs featured in other popular films.

jerseyboysmovieimage

Overall, the production and talent were top-notch, but the story lacked an emotional depth giving little credence to the band’s darker moments.

4/5 Atoms
NR 4 Atoms - B

 

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Rocky Vy
Rocky Vy 101 posts

<a href="http://www.artofonline.com">Digital marketing consultant</a> by trade, a freelance writer by passion. Also, anything that involves innovative tech, fashion, entrepreneurialism, Pantone 021C and pandas are cool, too. Follow him <a href="http://www.twitter.com/rockyvy">@rockyvy</a>.