Jersey Boys (2014)

By: Matt Conway (Two Beers) –
How many beers do you recommend for this movie?
1 Beer! A Toast! Great Movie!2 Beers! Good Movie!3 Beers! Okay Movie!4 Beers! Mediocre Movie!5 Beers! Awful Movie!6-Pack! Bad movie! Do not be Sober!

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Clint Eastwood is a living legend. From being one of the most bad-ass character in film history with Westerns like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, to just recently shooing people off his lawn with a shotgun in Grand Torino, Eastwood has shown that he is one tough guy. Eastwood has also shown he has quite a lot of skill behind the camera, with films like Mystic River, The Bridges of Madison County, and his Oscar-wining Million Dollar Baby not only showing great skill, but also great range.

Eastwood, though, is starting to show his age a bit as a director. Some of his more recent films like Invictus and J. Edgar have garnered unanimous “meh” reactions from both critics and audiences, with another one of his flicks, Hereafter, being trashed completely. Now Eastwood has chosen one of his biggest challenges yet with Jersey Boys. Based off the musical of the same now that told the true story of the Four Seasons, Jersey Boys is one of the most well-known Broadway plays out there, and also one of the best. Thankfully, the film adaptation of Jersey Boys is a successful one.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCMWNzpvCks&w=420&h=236]

Even Will Ferrell loves it!

 Based on the history of the band The Four Seasons, Jersey Boys follows the pop sensations and their rise to fame, and also their fall from grace.

A Toast 

 As you’d expect, the musical numbers in the film are flat out fantastic. As someone who is a fan of the Golden Oldies style of music, the music setpieces in the film really do not disappoint. The film perfectly captures the spirit and energy of The Four Season’s music numbers, with Frankie Valli’s unique voice and the songs’ catchy beats. I’ve had “Who Loves You” stuck in my head since seeing the film, along with some of the other great music numbers in the film.

Thankfully, these songs stuck in my head don't make me want to jump off a bridge.
Thankfully, these songs stuck in my head don’t make me want to jump off a bridge.

 Jersey Boys script is surprisingly quite sharp. As someone who has not seen the show, I was caught off-guard by the amount of times that the film had a great one-liner. Written by Rick Elice and Marshall Bickrman, the same duo who wrote the play, it does a great job of creating quick and snappy dialogue. The duo also are able to portray 50s culture without using stereotypes, but instead tackling the era with a sense of appreciation.

 Perhaps the highlight of the film, however, is the performances. John Lloyd Young, who played Fankie in the play, returns to the roll and commands the screen throughout. Not only is his singing pitch perfect, but Young is also able to really capture Frankie and his persona quite well. Young has a real sense of swagger in the role from the start, and then his performance continues to grow as the movie gets more and more serious. By the third act, Young has some strong emotional moments, and handles the scenes with restraint, while also letting the emotion of the moment resonate.

 Vincent Piazza is the other star of the film as Tommy, and does a solid job as well. He essential plays a loudmouth Italian full of insecurity, and does it quite well. Erich Bergen and Michael Lomenda round out the Four Seasons crew, and both do a great job with their performances and the musical numbers. The one person who I just can’t forget to mention is Christopher Walken, who is a joy to see in his small role here. It’s nice to see him doing better films.

Not again...please not again.
Not again…please not again.

What’s best about the four actors portraying the Four Seasons is how great their chemistry is together. The film really takes off once all four of them are on screen, as their relationship together feels quite genuine. They fight, they joke around, and all their interactions together are filled with heart. Even when the group is fighting, it’s easy to see that the four have a certain comradery that  is tough to match.

Surprising me quite a bit, however, was the depth present in the film. This is where Eastwood’s magic touch as a director works along with the screenplay. Jersey Boys does a great job of exploring the rags-to-riches theme, while also giving great insight into being in entertainment. The situations and sacrifices of being a celebrity all feel realistic, and help develop a certain level of respect for Frankie and the others.

Some have sacrificed more than others...
Some have sacrificed more than others to stay famous…

This insight into show business is where the film develops its emotional core. The second half is a lot edgier than one would expect, and full of some surprisingly sad moments. Frankie’s character and the band itself both go through an emotional roller coaster, with the results being some very emotional moments. The finale especially features a refreshing sense of reality that turns a lot of nostalgia about the band into melancholy.

Many already have been complaining that Jersey Boys lacks the glitz and glamour of the Broadway play. That may be the case, but I think that is something Eastwood realized as he was making the film. So instead of trying to recreate the Broadway spectacle, Eastwood focused on creating more of a emotional core, which was a big help in making this a better adaptation.

Beer Two

Clint Eastwood here does a good job of portraying the 50’s Golden Era and also helping in creating some depth, but some of his stylistic choices just do not work with the material. Often times Jersey Boys breaks the fourth wall, and these moments were just a bit off-putting. These moments were not consistent enough to create a sense of style, and were often times just too obvious. Not to mention, Jersey Boy features my pet peeve of draining the color, which to me is still extremely pointless.

At least its not as bad as J. Edgar...
At least its not as bad as J. Edgar…

While the second and third acts of the film are quite strong, the first act in particular felt much weaker in comparison. The first twenty to thirty minutes of the film focus on the formation of the band and their journey to finding an identity. While these moments still had the same sharp script and great performances, it felt very familiar, with Jersey Boys being too focused on the story rather than the characters.

Pacing here is also a bit of a problem. Almost all of Clint Eastwood’s films run just a bit too long, and this one is no different. At around two hours and fifteen minutes, Jersey Boy’s feels about ten minutes too long. This plays back into the beginning, as a lot of the introductory moments in the film could have been trimmed down a bit.

Verdict 

Despite a few mishaps, Jersey Boys is a far more subdued and sincere effort than I expected, but still features the great Golden Oldie style that made the era so great. This one should certainly split audiences and fans of the Jersey Boys property alike, but it’s certainly worth a viewing.

 

Drinking Game

Take a Drink: for each wise-crack

Take a Drink: during each scene Christopher Walken is in, great to see him back

Do a Shot: each time a music number pops-up

 

Last Call: Stick around for a cool little after credits bit

 

About Matt Conway

I love movies and sports and run on sentences. You can find me at a basketball court, the local theater, or napping on a couch somewhere.

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