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USA 2013
Directed by
Clint Eastwood
134 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
3.5 stars

Jersey Boys

Synopsis: Four young men from the wrong side of the tracks in New Jersey form a pop group that takes the world by storm. This is the story of The Four Seasons, based upon the award-winning stage musical.

For those who don’t know, Clint Eastwood is a fine musician so it is not entirely surprising that in his advancing years he has stepped into a directorial role for a genre he’s never done before. It’s light years away from his previous directorial work and whilst lacking the “in-your-face” exuberance of the live show Jersey Boys is an interesting and worthy take on a story of rags to riches, group dynamics and the power plays that very often come with the territory.

Eastwood’s choice of unfamiliar (at least to Hollywood) faces for his leads is a good call. Three of the four leads are veterans of the stage show. The one not with previous experience in the stage show is Vincent Piazza who plays Tommy de Vito, self-appointed leader of the group. He lends a toughness to Tommy but never crosses into bad boy caricature. Michael Lomenda plays Nick Massi, bass guitarist and vocal arranger, Eric Bergen is Bob Gaudio, the man, along with Bob Crewe, responsible for writing so many of the hit songs for the group, and John Lloyd Young is Frankie Valli, the singer with the amazing falsetto that makes the Four Seasons sound instantly recognisable. All four men are terrific in their roles and apparently all singing is done live for the cameras making the smoothness of the finished product even more commendable. The fact that Valli himself is a producer of the film possibly makes for a more idealistic view of his character than truth dictates. But hey, this is a musical!

The one known face is that of Christopher Walken, who plays Gyp de Carlo, a gangster figure who doles out words of advice, fixes debt problems when Tommy’s gambling gets out of control, and who sheds copious tears at Frankie’s rendition of “My Mother’s Eyes”. For me seeing Walken on the big screen is always a delight, and he blends just the right balance of mobster gravitas and self-irony in his character.

Eastwood chooses to follow fairly faithfully the style of the live musical. He also uses the device of each character speaking at one time or another to the camera – telling the tale from his own personal perspective. The murky dynamics of friction between the members, especially with Gaudio and Valli making side-deals to the exclusion of the other two, lends a dramatic plot thread to the lightness of the music, as does the story of the financial difficulties visited upon them thanks to Tommy’s gambling. But it is the music that is still at the heart of this film and it is jam-packed with wonderful memorable songs and musical talent that showcases Valli’s ability to go from mainstream pop to the cabaret style circuit with ease. With songs such as “Dawn” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry” to the timeless “Can’t Keep My Eyes Off You” we get a picture of a greatness that perhaps doesn’t come readily to mind when we think of other artists whose careers have spanned so many decades.

Costuming is top-notch and the amusingly studied period choreography of the group is perfectly replicated although it is only nearing its end that the true thrill of the music seems to mesh with the film’s look and feel. No doubt this is because the live show has won me over and Eastwood tries to compensate for this with a fun stage-like finale in which the whole cast appear in a rendition of  "Oh, What A Night".

For anyone following Eastwood’s career, loving the Four Seasons, or simply wanting to see a truly enjoyable toe-tapping film musical, this one should be put on your list.




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