When one hears the title, Jersey Boys, they may think of the Broadway Musical, or some Jersey Shore spin off. Neither is correct, but the first would be the closest. I have not seen the Broadway musical the movie is based on, and I’m glad I didn’t, otherwise I would spend the entire review comparing the two when I would much rather let the movie stand on its own merit.
Directed by Clint Eastwood, yes, that Clint Eastwood, director and actor extraordinaire–and sometime chair talker–has adapted the musical, Jersey Boys for the big screen. When I first heard that Clint Eastwood was going to direct the film adaptation of the beloved musical, I was in shock. Really? Of all the projects in the world, Oscar-winning director Clint Eastwood is going to make a musical? I went into the movie feeling skeptical. I love a good live musical, but movie musicals tend to be campy, (see Hairspray) or trying too hard, (see Les Miserables). With movie musicals, you tend to lose the thrill of a live production. A two and half minute song sung live is captivating, but on screen it can prove flat. I am glad to say I was proved wrong.
The solution, Clint Eastwood used to solve the “movie musical problem” is simple. This is not a movie musical. It may be based on the Broadway show and have the same creative team behind it inMarshall Brickman and Rick Elice, who both earned Tony nominations for their work on the musical, but I wouldn’t use the term movie musical to describe it. This film is more of a biopic, telling, in detail the story of Frankie Valli and the origin of The Four Seasons.
The story is relatable to many, young people trying to escape their hometown life in Jersey. One of the first quotes from the film is Tommy DeVitto, played by the wonderful Vincent Piazza, telling the camera, “There were only three ways to escape, join the army and get killed, join the mob, and probably get killed, or become famous. For us, it was two out of three.” Three of the main four cast have been in the musical production. John Lloyd Young reprises his Tony Winning portrayal of Frankie Valli, and Erich Bergen and Michael Lomenda join from the first national tour. Joining the original group is Vincent Piazza of Boardwalk Empire fame as Tommy DeVitto. But the true scene stealers of the show are Christopher Walken as mob boss Gyp DeCarlo, who takes a special interest in Frankie and Mike Doyle as Bob Crewe, The Four Seasons’ record producer and co-writer of some of their biggest hits, bringing much needed humor to a dark situation. And this movie is funny! Hilarious even, considering its dark undertone, a perfect balance between drama and comedy.
The film is wonderfully directed, from the use of narration, where the characters talk directly to the camera, and therefore directly to the audience, to the costume and set design. The film spans over a few decades, and while most films would label their time jumps, telling the audience what year it is each time there is a new scene. This film assumes, unlike so many out there, that the audience isn’t stupid. We see through hair, makeup, and most of all costume design by the amazing Deborah Hopper, what decade we are in, and how much time has passed. And not only that, but the whole picture is shot in the style of the period. The music, although important, takes a back seat in this version. The story takes the forefront, and the songs are used mostly for scene transition.
Jersey Boys is a movie for all ages and not in the Disney sense. This is a movie that no one should be ashamed to see with his or her grandparents or kids. Movie musicals tend to have a campy, kitschy aura. This could not be further from the truth, dealing with such timeless issues such as loss, success, more loss, debt, and loyalty.
Check out the trailer below:
Jersey Boys is out in theaters June 20th.