Jersey Boys (2014) – Review

Directed by Clint Eastwood
Written by Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice
Starring John Lloyd Young, Vincent Piazza, Erich Bergen, Christopher Walken

We’ve come to expect alot from Clint Eastwood. And rightly so. Forget the acting history, which in itself is beyond stellar. His directorial career has been just as outstanding. Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Unforgiven, Letters From Iwo Jima, Gran Torino and a multitude of other spellbinding creations make him probably one of the most respected and formidable talents working in the industry. Period.
Strange then, perhaps, that he should choose the musical biography of the career of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons as his next potential cinematic classic in the making. Not exactly what you might expect Dirty Harry to enjoy? Never saw Harry Callahan groovin’ to ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’ or ‘Sherry’? Well, who knows, perhaps he was feeling lucky. As lucky as we are that he chose this story as his subject matter.Opening on a rolling street shot of New ‘Joisey’ back in the early fifties, we are spoken to directly by Piazza’s Tommy DeVito, a young Italian chancer, a charmer looking to make a buck most anywhere he can. He sells stolen goods, enjoys life like only the innocent really can, despite his part-time profession, and plays guitar in a band. Tommy is pretty much in charge of the band. He says who comes and who goes, where they play and for how much. And he is about to make the best decision of his life, but also one that will cost him the most. He puts his good friend Frankie (John Lloyd Young) in the band, as he has a voice like no-one else.

Stating that there are only three ways out of Jersey as young man; Serious crime, the Army or becoming famous, Tommy already knows which option he wants to take and sees Frankie as the best way to give him a crack at making the big time. And so with the help of musical scribe and ivory tinkler Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) plus the faithful but seemingly docile Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda)  ‘The Four Lovers’ are born.

Inspired by the ‘Jersey Boys’ Broadway musical (which, ironcially, is also playing in my town at the moment) Eastwood has a gamut of material to play wizard with and the script from Brickman and Elice is consistently entertaining, if not always as sophisticated as we might like. Realistic, certainly, if you think about where these boys grew up and what from. Much has been made of the coarse language the script is liberally saddled with, and at times this may upset some audiences, but on the whole, it still feels suitably authentic, especially for those that are maybe not versed in the original stage musical already.

Unsurprisingly Jersey Boys is awash with toe-tappin’, finger-clickin’ hot one hundred gold and none of the great Four Seasons standards are left out. Many audience members (at least at my screening) were of an age that probably heard these songs when they were first released and potentially, you may point to a demographic that takes longer than the average amount of time to find their way to their allotted seat in the theatre in the dark. Perhaps an Eastwood directed biopic of Dr Dre wouldn’t have quite as much weight, in case you are beginning to wonder whether to be grateful or not for Clint’s choice of story.

At a smidgen over two hours, the film rightly never feels hurried, but in the same breath, you’re unlikely to notice the time passing unless you really have a dislike for the music or any of the performers. If so, you might ask yourself why you went to see this. The content should come as no surprise. It’s not like you couldn’t find the story in a hundred other places before you decided which movie to pick that evening.

Overall, excellent direction as always from Eastwood, who never surprises us here, but never disappoints us either. The songs will have you smiling , tapping your feet and maybe even clapping your hands and joining in at the chorus (not at my screening, we’re British, for goodness sake) if you’re that way inclined. As a biographic record, it is as good a history lesson as you’ll get on the subject, but Eastwood wants you to have fun, which is just as well, as you invariably will do. Also, if you have a soul, it will probably be inclined to pick up a copy of the soundtrack before the brilliant credits have even finished. If so, Eastwood has most certainly done his job, as have the excellent cast, superbly talented, every last one of them.

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