Jersey Boys is a musical biography of the successful 1960s & 70s band, The Four Seasons - the rise, the tough times and personal clashes, and the ultimate triumph of a group of friends whose music became symbolic of a generation.
Review by Louise Keller:
Beyond the toe-tapping songs, it's the drama that brings grit to Clint Eastwood's Jersey Boys which, like the successful musical, explores the rough and tumble background, turbulent relationships, struggle for success and of course the unique musical sound created by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Like the group, the film takes a while to get going, but when it does we are swallowed up by the pathos and colour of the story involving a 16 year old kid from Belleville, New Jersey who has a voice like an angel and is the protégé of mafia-types and small time crooks. While it may seem an unusual project for Eastwood, whose love for jazz is well known, he clearly has a soft spot for the music and the story behind it; everything zings with meticulous authenticity - from the top line production design, costumes, make up and hair to the superb casting and performances. Essentially for aficionados, what the film lacks in razzamatazz is compensated by good story telling, offering emotional resonance and providing a platform of context on which the all important music can sit.
Adopting the musical's narrative approach in which the four band members voice their own perspective of the events in a straight-to-camera monologue, the film starts to gel at around the 30 minute mark, when songwriter Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergin, excellent) comes on board. As the only member who is not from the tough neighbourhood, the friction starts from the get-go and the conflicts with band leader Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) escalate like a responsive Cadillac with its pedal flat to the floor. The contrast between the backstage dramas and the beautiful music created (with hits like Sherry, My Eyes Adored You, Oh What a Night, Walk Like a Man, Big Girls Don't Cry and my favourite, Rag Doll) forms the film's vital light and shade. Eastwood's decision for the songs to be performed delivers an immediacy and tangible dynamic.
John Lloyd Young, who originated the role of Frankie on Broadway is a great asset, showing considerable range as he develops from naïve kid to flawed husband, father and artist in control of his own destiny. (Michael Lomenda as bass guitarist Nick Massi and other cast members was also recruited from the stage show.) It is the unswerving loyalty of the Jersey neighbourhood mentality that keeps things afloat, despite critical conflicts. Crucial to the story's emotional curve is the early establishment of Tommy's nurturing of the young Frankie, allowing us to understand why even a million dollar hole does not let loyalties flounder. The scene when Christopher Walken's mobster Gyp deCarlo stage manages a potential catastrophe is one of the film's best. 'A gift from God' is how Gyp describes Frankie's pure expressive falsetto voice. Mike Doyle as the outwardly gay Bob Crewe, the 'theatrical' record producer who gives the group its first break, offers some laughs and I loved the sequence in which they springboard from backing singers to recording artists.
At 134 minutes, the running time drags a little, but for those who like the music or simply enjoy a good, well-told tale, Jersey Boys has much to offer.
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JERSEY BOYS (M)
CAST: Christopher Walken, Freya Tingley, John Lloyd Young, Francesca Eastwood, Sean Whalen, Billy Gardell, Vincent Piazza, Mike Doyle, Johnny Cannizaro, Elizabeth Hunter, Maggie Beal
PRODUCER: Tim Headington, Graham King, Robert Lorenz
DIRECTOR: Clint Eastwood
SCRIPT: Rick Elice, Marshall Brickman (Musical Book by)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tom Stern
EDITOR: Joel Cox, Gary D. Roach
PRODUCTION DESIGN: James J. Murakami
RUNNING TIME: 134 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 3, 2014