God only knows what Eastwood was thinking by stepping into the director’s seat on this mess. Jersey Boys is based upon the Tony award winning Broadway musical, which is still running. The idea (I guess) of making this movie is to make it more accessible to those who wanted to watch the story by couldn’t afford an NYC trip and Broadway ticket on a whim. So basically this movie was made for poor kids like you and me (except that I’d rather go watch the new incarnation of Cabaret). How many of us were clamoring for the so-called true story of the Four Seasons in theaters? This is the summer movie that producers thought would be a success, but nobody really cares to watch. Broadway success does not translate to cinemas. Just ask Rock of Ages.
Jersey Boys is like every movie about a band that you’ve ever seen. There’s the added bonus of an acclaimed director who loves jazz but decided that making a movie about pop idols was good enough. Eastwood composes many of his own scores. This movie was always destined to be beneath his talents. He’s here though, and the final product is a not-so-compelling band biopic with a wannabe Goodfellas vibe in the mix.
If you’ve watched any band biopics at all, his film’s trajectory will be very familiar. This movie’s focus is upon the backstory of the Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. As a group, they were pop musical idols. They were the One Direction of the 1960s. Oh, don’t look at me that way. Nostalgia makes everything seem more sophisticated. The main difference is that the Four Seasons sold themselves as good boys, but there was a criminal backstory lurking underneath the surface. Jersey Boys aims to explore that “explosive” history in detail. In short, this movie is heavy on the melodrama and lighter on the tunes than one would expect from a musical.
The struggle between band members isn’t too compelling, but Seasons diehards will be interested in the band’s E! True Hollywood Story. We see the criminal beginnings of founder Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) and bassist Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda) as they join up with with the lyrical stylings of Gaudio (Erich Bergen) and the voice, Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young, who won a Tony for the role on Broadway). Of course, the band members retain ties to the mob. A subdued Christopher Walken, who can’t get a break these days and find a quality project, plays mafioso Gyp DeCarlo. He’s a nice mobster (big mobsters *do* cry). Aside from the cursory digging into all this gangster stuff, Jersey Boys is just another movie about just another band.
The problem is that we’ve seen this same story (with various tweaks) before in so many biopics about real and fictional bands. Pop The Doors, That Thing You Do or even The Runaways into your DVD player. You’ll see the band come together, their early struggle, their fights, and their annoyance at having to performing the same sh-t over and over again. One band member usually strikes out on their own at some point. The characters have family members tugging from behind the scenes, groupies are everywhere, and the band either breaks up or comes together at the right moment. This movie is the same with some uneven cinematography to “jazz” things up and some financial and mob-related stress to distract from what could have been an entertaining musical. One gets the feeling that Eastwood couldn’t figure out how to make the numbers flow with the story. This is staccato filmmaking. Abrupt. Not smooth like jazz.
As a film, this sucker is long. About 130 minutes. Honestly, the most entertaining moment for me was some meta-weirdness when Eastwood appears onscreen in an episode of Rawhide. With Jersey Boys, I’ll tell you what I’ve already said. There’s no reason for you to spend your money at the multiplex unless you’re a huge fan of the Four Seasons and can’t make it to Broadway. Come to think of it, Frankie Valli is still touring too, so you could always pick up tickets for his actual concert instead.
Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She can be found at Celebitchy.