Film: Jersey Boys
Starring: John Lloyd Young and Erich Bergen
Director: Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby)
U.S. Release: June 20th, 2014 (Rated R)
Runtime: 134 minutes
*** Featuring a guest review by Reel True owner Greg Rouleau
A quick glance at the directorial resumé of Clint Eastwood shows the Hollywood legend making an attempt to tackle a diversity of projects in his latter years. While not all of them have been home runs, including a couple whiffs such as Hereafter and J. Edgar, Clint has continuously displayed an adept ability behind the camera. Always working with top talent, and pulling out consistently strong performances, Eastwood seemed poised for a challenge. In Jersey Boys, the big-screen adaptation of the Broadway play, the director cast relative unknowns for the key roles of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. With a somber look at the trials and tribulations of the famed group, the film offers just enough for hardcore fans to enjoy, but the end result doesn’t quite reach the heights of Eastwood’s best projects.
With a 134-minute running time that overstays its welcome by about 20-minutes, Jersey Boys feels like West Side Story meets Goodfellas as the story begins. A group of young singers, who make regular trips to local jail and have connections with organized crime, are trying to get their music act off the ground. The connections are mostly through Tommy DeVito, played by Vincent Piazza of Boardwalk Empire. Piazza, arguably the most recognizable face of the group, exudes plenty of machismo for the smooth-talking Tommy. Frankie Castelluccio (John Lloyd Young) has a voice that makes the girls swoon. The trio, is completed by Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda), but the group doesn’t see much success until songwriter Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) joins and lands them a deal recording with producer, Bob Crewe, as Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
Like most of Eastwood’s latest efforts, there’s a sullen tone throughout the film. While there is inevitably some darkness behind the fame and glory of any major music act, it can be argued that a movie like this would’ve been aided by a little more optimism and energy. Seeing the stories behind the popular songs of the Four Seasons is a treat, but the amount of time the audience is able to revel in the glory of the group’s success is brief, as major issues continue to plague its members. There’s also the issue of Eastwood’s style, most notably his continued use of the desaturated color pallette that he’s seemed to favor since his 2006 war-epic, Flags of Our Fathers. Perhaps suitable to a film of that bleak nature, Jersey Boys would’ve benefitted from a little pop of color.
Despite the unknown talent, Clint still manages to pull great performances out of the entire cast. There’s also a nice chemistry between the four main actors, who recorded their songs live, according to the director, and each one also gets a turn with their fourth-wall breaking narration. Piazza shines early on where he is mostly the focus, and there are some great turns by Christopher Walken as Gyp DeCarlo and Mike Doyle as Bob Crewe. Even Renee Marino as Frankie’s first wife, Mary Delgado, shines in a few key scenes, despite having a character that is completely under-developed. By the time the credits role, there’s a sense of satisfaction with the story told, but there’s also a feeling that we've been robbed of a more enjoyable movie experience.
Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4