Clint Eastwood’s Jersey Boys hits a bunch of high notes
By Heather Nichols, Tawfik Zone Contributor
I have not seen the stage show, though I was a bit surprised when I found out Eastwood was directing this musical, but to my delight it all worked out quite well in the end. Yes I am well aware that Frankie Valli’s music is considered to be before my time but being with my mother and grandfather I probably knew most of his songs before I was 10.
As a film, Jersey Boys is a good effort and I give it a 7/10 for presenting an interesting blend of musical and bio-pic that does not completely fit into the conventional molds of either genre. With the exception of some pacing and editing issues, this film has a great look and sound to it. A must see for any fan of the Four Seasons’ music.
A smart decision on the film’s part was casting three of their leads (John Lloyd Young, Erich Bergen and Michael Lomenda) directly from the musical. The only exception to this was Vincent Piazza, best known for starring in The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire, as Tommy DeVito. The story follows the founding and career of the group through name changes, romances, personal struggles and tragedy all blending into a narrative that as I said before doesn’t really fit either genre entirely.
The songs are peppered in a way that does not scream traditional musical such as Sweeney Todd where the narrative is moved along by song. In Jersey Boys the songs almost happen in a VH1 Behind the Music sort of way. It also breaks away from some of the bio-pic elements, particularly with a noir aspect where various members of the group address the audience directly, as I assume they do in the stage show.
My only major criticism in this is that sometimes the pacing gets broken in a weird way where nothing seems to be happening and then all of a sudden it’s off to the races. My only other issue, and this is because I’m an editor, is that the flashback inserted makes absolutely no sense. The only reason I could see it being there is if there was an intermission and they wanted to come back with a song, which may have happened in the stage show.
I have no idea who was in charge of mixing the audio but the horns and saxophones were not always properly miked which lead to some notes that just sounded off to me. But I’m still glad they did live music in favor of dubbing over giving it a realistic feeling that many movie musicals don’t have.
This film really was a treat that exceeded my own personal expectations and it impressed my mother, who let me tell you is really not a fan of musicals so that is saying something. I’m able to talk about this film without spoilers which is a nice change of pace.
If you don’t know anything about Valli’s personal life this film will give you a little glimpse, which is at times funny and other times poignantly shows the double edged sword he experienced from achieving fame. For the most part the film is accurate except for a couple little details with Tommy’s character that have been altered. Other than those missteps the screenplay is pretty solid.
I had the privilege to provide captions for a TV interview with Frankie Valli, who at that point hadn’t seen the film. Just from hearing the real voice and comparing it to Young who portrays him in the film and on the stage, Young absolutely nailed it. I will end by saying that Clint makes a very subtle cameo in the film. There is a moment when the band members are watching Rawhide on the TV so keep an eye out for that.