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Friday, June 20, 2014


Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
2014, 134 minutes
Rated R for language throughout

Review by Joshua Handler

Clint Eastwood is not the first person I would've thought of to direct a film adaptation of the electrifying Tony-winning smash musical Jersey Boys.  But, someone chose him to direct and now the movie is hitting movie screens across the country.  Eastwood's Jersey Boys is an odd film because it isn't a musical, it isn't energetic, and it isn't uplifting.  However, what it lacks in music, it makes up for in compelling drama, played typically low-key by Eastwood.

Three of the four actors portraying the Four Seasons have played their respective characters on stage. As Frankie Valli, John Lloyd Young is reprising the role for which he won a Tony.  All four actors' bring great energy to their roles and the performances are excellent across the board.  Vincent Piazza stands out as Tommy DeVito and Christopher Walken has an amusing supporting performance as Gyp DeCarlo, a mob boss who takes Frankie under his wing.

The energy of the actors is balanced by Eastwood's traditional, low-key approach to the material.  He doesn't emphasize the music sequences.  They come and go just like any other scene, which gives the film a sense of realism.  There's nothing glamorous about this production, which for the most part works very well because it makes the drama much more powerful.

Many scenes in Jersey Boys have a bite to them.  Every joyous scene or moment has an undercurrent of sadness in it.  The Four Seasons were a troubled group and this film focuses on the troubles more than anything.  Because I began to care for these men, flaws and all, every time they encountered a setback, personal or professional, it had impact.

Like the show, the fourth wall is broken and the members of The Four Seasons provide their own commentary on the story, which gives the story another dimension; it saves the movie from becoming yet another streamlined biopic with a single voice.

Most of the drama works, but there are some moments and a side plot involving Valli's troubled relationship with his daughter that undermines much of the film's dramatic power and sincerity.  During one of Jersey Boys's strongest scenes, moments of humor are thrown in that take away from the weight of the drama.  The father-daughter subplot worked very well in the musical, but here it is underdeveloped and cheesy, which cheapens the very tragic subject matter.  It was certainly necessary to show how Frankie's lifestyle affected his family, but it is also necessary to develop this subplot instead of throwing it in.

Additionally, the movie should have ended with a bang.  Jersey Boys puts its characters through the ringer for most of its 134-minute running time.  After all of the dark drama, it would've been nice to have the film end with something exciting; something cathartic or just satisfying.

Overall, Jersey Boys is a solid film and one that I would recommend seeing.  Is it as great as the musical?  Absolutely not.  If people are looking to see the film to relive the experience of seeing the musical, they're going to be very disappointed because this is a drama with music, not a musical with drama.  The strongest aspect of most of Eastwood's directorial efforts is the acting and the drama, which is why this film works as well as it does.  Parents should know that while Jersey Boys has an R-rating, the film is more than okay for any tweens and teens.


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