So I’ve read some mixed reviews about Clint Eastwood’s much anticipated Jersey Boys, a film adaptation of the huge hit musical. Some people believe that it’s full of singers who can’t really act, that they’re too old to play the parts of young 20-somethings and that the overall tone of the film is lifeless and dull and in no way lives up to its musical predecessor. I tend to disagree. September last year I had the good fortune to be in Vegas and see Jersey Boys. Having long been a fan of their music, it was brilliant to see their lives acted out in such a clever and dynamic way. My concern with the film was that it would loose some of the magic of the stage show – the direct dialogues to the audience, that overwhelming sense of joy at hearing the songs come alive and, most importantly, that the singing just wouldn’t cut it. John Lloyd Young is perfect as Frankie Valli with the kind of vocals that make even the hardest of hearts nostalgic. Perhaps the almost 40 year old didn’t quite pull off the fresh faced 16 year old Frankie in the first scenes but his amazing vocals more than made up for it.
I loved that Eastwood kept in the dialogues to camera as these play a crucial role in the stories movement and the audiences understanding of the characters and their relationship with each other. Anyone who has seen the stage show will notice that a lot of the dialogue is the same, often word-for-word, and somehow they make it work. There is a sense of anticipation as each one of their hits gets written and released, as if you are experiencing the journey with them. Vincent Piazza as Tommy DeVito walks that fine line between love and hate as his character continues to get into trouble at the expense of the band but there is something about him, perhaps the way he takes care of Frankie when he’s a teenager, that is endearing.
A lot of the humour was provided by the bands manager Bob Crewe, played brilliantly by Mike Doyle. His witty one liners and camp innuendo were a highlight. In particular when he first meets Bob Gaudio, played by Erich Bergen, and proceeds to flirt with him, Bob turns to camera and says ‘I remember thinking something was a little “off” about this guy. It was 1959. People thought Liberace was just…theatrical.’
While I’ve heard some people criticise the fact that no “big name” actors were used (except of course Christopher Walken as the imposing Angelo ‘Gyp’ DeCarlo) I think this is to the films credit. When producing bio films often it’s better if the audience can’t put the face to other roles. As amazing as Michelle Williams was a Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn, I just kept seeing Jen from Dawson’s Creek. By the end of the film I believed these guys were The Four Seasons. And not to give away too much, but I loved the Fame-style musical number that rolled during the credits that included all the cast. What can I say, I’m a sucker for a big musical number, and for my money this film did not disappoint.
Image credit: Erich Bergen, Clint Eastwood, John Lloyd Young, Vincent Piazza, and Michael Lomenda. Photo by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair. Image credit: The Four Seasons on the Ed Sullivan show. Video credit: Sky Movies.