Clint Eastwood, who has been in somewhat of a rut starting after Gran Torino, returns without a whole lot of marketing and recognition with a film-adaption of the musical Jersey Boys. What could be an interesting look into the rise and fall of The Four Seasons is actually an unfocused jumble of unimportant plot points that lack emotion and fluidity.
The film follows the lives of the boys who would become The Four Seasons. There is the wannabe-mobster Tommy DeVito, someone who thinks that 6 months in prison is nothing and who only really looks out for their own good; there is Bob Gaudio, the naive songwriter whose songs lead the band to fame; there is Nick who is least seen of the group; and finally there is Frankie Valli, the person we spend the most time with in the film, and also the most famous person to come out of it. The cast is exceptionally strong. Playing the band are actors who have already been playing the characters on Broadway. They have no real film experience, other than Vincent Piazza who plays Tommy, and they truly shine. Jake Lloyd Young inhabits the role of Frankie with ease. His performance is electric, the voice is spot-on, and he is a pleasure to watch perform.
The only downside to the cast being mainly all from the actual play is that it makes the movie feel very stage-bound. Some of the mannerisms do not translate well over to film like they do on stage. It is pretty distracting in early scenes where it feels like they were just copied from the actual stage show.
The chemistry between the cast is very strong, but due to the lack of focus I did not feel anything when the eventual split happened. In fact, there was not a whole lot of emotion to be felt in this movie at all. Eastwood has a hard time trying to find what is important to show. We see brief glimpses of the deteriorating family-life of Valli, his strained relationship with his daughters, and the money troubles that Tommy gets into, but they all do not get the attention they deserve. Focusing on just one of these aspects would have allowed for a more emotional impact, but even when something happens in one of these subplots, it feels like a forced conclusion to the thread. A good portion of the movie is set to establishing the fact that there are mobster connections within the band. Tommy works for Gyp DeCarlo, played by Christopher Walken(the only real star-power in the film), and most of the beginning appears to try and justify the interactions later on in the film so they do not feel unnatural. Yet, these portions tend to drag with a lot of silly antics that take away from the somewhat serious subject matter, which ultimately makes the movie feel exceedingly long.
The movie does succeed in the musical sequences. Again, the chemistry and performance of the actors helps these portions feel alive. Though they are well done with all of the foot-tapping songs of The Four Seasons played multiple times throughout, they do feel a bit repetitive by the end, as there is a string of about 3 songs right next to each other.
In the end, Jersey Boys is a decent film. It suffers from poor direction, a lack of focus, along with over-exposition in early scenes. It is thankfully saved by some fantastic acting and great musical sequences. If you’re a fan of the play, the band, or just love film adaptations of famous Broadway plays, check it out if you want, just be prepared for a long, unfocused ride.