Release Date: June 20, 2014
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writer: Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice
Cast: Vincent Piazza, John Lloyd Young, Steve Schirripa, Christopher Walken, Kathrine Narducci, Lou Volpe, Johnny Cannizzaro, Michael Lomenda, Lacey Hannan, Scott Vance, Steve Rankin, Ivar Brogger, Scott Michael Vance, Annika Noelle.
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 134 minutes
Production Company: GK Films, RatPac Entertainment
Genre: Biography, Drama, Musical
Clint Eastwood is considered a legendary icon, and he’s back in the director’s chair with another great hit that’s sure to entertain. Jersey Boys tells the true tale of four young men that didn’t always make the best decisions, but when they did formed the popular 1960’s rock group titled THE FOUR SEASONS. If you’re young like myself, you may not know the story, but probably can recognize some of the classic hits that graced our ears in the past decades. In this film told by Eastwood, he balances the story-telling from the view of the group and not how the world saw them in the limelight. It works on many levels and is near perfect in my opinion. While it barely misses that milestone due to pacing in the 2nd act, it doesn’t matter because you’ll be smiling from ear to ear (possibly singing along) when the credits run. What’s great about the introduction is it starts with the characters already aware with their goals and where they want to end up. At the time, in the city of New Jersey, there are only three options a male could have when planning out his years to come. Those are joining the military, making a career through ripping off your neighbors, or singing on stage. So it’s safe to assume these four chose the latter. No time is wasted on bland retellings of their childhood or what exactly motivated them. You do get waves of each characters personality traits, but it fits well with how the story is told. This works through narration and the actors simply turning to the camera and literally telling us what was going on in their heads at that exact moment. There’s one particular scene that stood out so much where a character is performing on stage, turns to the camera to speak, and then immediately goes back to his performance. Usually this only works a few times in comedy, but its flawless here due to it being a true story. I’m not saying this hasn’t been done before in other films, but for some reason it stood out here in bright fashion. Speaking about brightness, I haven’t seen all of Eastwood’s films, but it’s close to half. And his stamp on the film through his shadow lighting techniques brings even more life to the picture. This is the story of the Four Seasons performing on stage under bright lights. So when the scenes are lit that way (even off the stage) it brings a new level of detail that can’t be ignored. He does that from beginning to end and it was a nice treat for the audience. Other techniques Eastwood uses are through the songs themselves. During the early portion of the film the characters are singing songs some have come to love through performance or rehearsal, while in the 2nd half of the film it’s a soundtrack in the distance. It’s an excellent way of showing the passing of time without having a giant title card and/or dates plastered across the screen (not that, that’s always a bad thing.) Another great addition is the cast themselves. John Lloyd Young (Frankie Valli) the lead, and Erich Bergen (Bob Gaudio) did phenomenal jobs portraying their characters. I really feel like each character took their time portraying all the mannerisms of The Four Seasons to a degree that really makes you care about them. Earlier I stated that the film is telling the story of their personal life behind the scenes as they grew in popularity. It’s a great story to balance seeing that each character had their own skeletons they have to deal with. One character is so loyal to another, even cleaning up his own messes to the point it ruins his family and possibly the group. The character is Frankie Valli, and his stone cold face of frustration throughout gives the perfect example of what he had to balance supposedly to reach the top. Tommy DeVito’s (Vincent Piazza) character can’t even balance a checkbook correctly and makes excuses when the bill is due. He’s so willfully dense that he couldn’t admit theirs a fire even if his head were burning. This all comes to life and a few scenes where personalities start to crash and dismantle the group. When The Four Seasons are together in these moments with the addition of a few more characters it really shines a light on where everyone is morally and what they ultimately stand to gain in the end. In short, the performances were great. If you’re not familiar with the characters or looking forward to this picture, their performances are convincing and draw you in. You could even look at a picture of some of the real musicians and see that they’re spot on. Not that it matters as far as performance, but I can imagine that helping draw you in if you grew up with their music. The make-up department did a great job as well keeping the same actors and displaying their age in the 1990’s for their Hall of Fame appearance. Now this film is based on the Broadway Musical which I haven’t seen, but after seeing this movie it would be nice to witness and compare the story-telling. It also raises the question of what is the better telling of the story from the masses. I’m curious to know. As much as I enjoyed the movie it wasn’t perfect to say the least. While narration covers a better part of the story trough different cast members, at one point it did only cater to one character which became quite dull by the end of the 1st act. I’m happy to say this was cleared up later on with other characters given the chance to shine. In my opinion, Jersey Boys was a great film that earns recognition for its attempt. Besides a minor hiccup or two it was a joy to watch with great pace and brings back memories of my childhood of sounds I always heard, but never knew its origin. This isn’t Clint Eastwood’s greatest film, but for me at least it’s one to remember.