Jersey Boys Review

Posted: December 26, 2014 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Jersey-Boys-PosterWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

Toward the end of last year, many film critics took note of the massive influence of Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas on two of the biggest Best Picture contenders, American Hustle and Scorsese’s own The Wolf of Wall Street. Each had various elements of Scorsese’s gangster classic, but both were ultimately pretty different in their own ways. However anyone wanting a more thorough emulation of Goodfellas need only wait a few months for Clint Eastwood’s Jersey Boys. Though the film is essentially a biopic of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, the low-crime infused origins, stylistic narration, and period setting evoke Scorsese’s film. The film received pretty mixed reviews, but I have a lot of enthusiasm for Eastwood as a director and thought it be good to catch up on this before I see his other 2014 film, American Sniper.

The film opens in the early 1950s in New Jersey, with Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) narrating the story. He explains how he formed a musical group with friend Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda) and is responsible for discovering young singer Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young). Together, the three become a musical group, quickly recruiting hit songwriter Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen). With a unique sound and a collection of catchy songs, the group become iconic rock band The Four Seasons. The film follows their origins, rise, and their conflicts.

I was a little surprised by the stylistic direction Eastwood took with Jersey Boys. The man is a fantastic director, but not an overly stylish one. His films usually look and sound great, but they’ve also been historically defined by their clean storytelling and a lack of distractions. He rarely concerns himself with stylistic flourishes and sure enough, he doesn’t seem too comfortable with them here. The narration and fourth wall-breaking screams Goodfellas, but Eastwood is never able to create anywhere near the sense of energy that film had. In some ways, the lack of energy is Jersey Boys’ biggest flaws. There are some good scenes here and there, but the film never has the momentum to carry things through. Additionally, I never felt fully immersed in the world of the film due to disconnected to the events. Certain moments which feel like they should be really important feel underdeveloped and end up falling flat.

In spite of this, there are some strong moments throughout. It was interesting enough to see the humble crime infused roots of “The Four Seasons” (even if I’m not all that interested in the band) and some of the moments of the rise and fall narrative are entertaining enough. The cast also has some strong turns, namely John Lloyd Young as Frankie Valli, and to a lesser extent Vincent Piazza as Tommy DeVito. I was less fond of Michael Lomenda, who seemed to be over playing his part, and some of the supporting cast veer dangerously close to being Italian stereotypes. Being an Eastwood film, the production value is general pretty good. The art direction is pretty strong and the period clothing looks pretty legit. There is one scene involving driving which looks really bad, but outside of that one scene the movie looks solid.

I’m sure a lot of people will be interested in the film for the music and on that note, they might be disappointed. While the broadway play the film was based on is a full blown musical, the movie is more of a straight forward depiction of their career. There are definitely a lot of Four Seasons’ songs in the movie, but they’re not really extravagant productions so much as they are a story. People expecting a musical are going to be sorely disappointed, but the songs are performed with gusto and seem to be on-point imitations of the original. Of course, I’m not really the right person to ask. I’ve never cared for The Four Seasons’ music and this film didn’t really sway me otherwise. That isn’t to say I actively disliked the music or that the movie was grating on me, but I can’t say it really elevated the film for me.

Overall, Jersey Boys is an extremely minor work in Eastwood’s filmography. It was interesting to see him take a stylistic turn, but I don’t think he really pulled it off and while the film does have its moments, it ultimately falls flat and won’t leave any impression on me going forward. I can’t quite say it’s a bad movie, but it is forgettable and if you chose to skip it, I can’t say you’re missing much.

C-

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