Saturday, 21 June 2014

Jersey Boys Los Angeles première and initial reviews - a mixed bag?

Clint Eastwood pays tribute to Jersey Boys as he attends movie première wearing famous red tuxedo and bow tie

He is one of the all-time icons of cinema and 84-year-old Clint Eastwood brought some glamour to the Jersey Boys premiere in Los Angeles on Thursday.
Wearing a red blazer and black bow-tie identical to the ones worn by the Jersey Boys in the movie, the Hollywood megastar, who directed the movie, clearly wanted to pay tribute to the band.
Based on the musical of the same name, the biopic tells the story of four young men who came together to form popular sixties rock group The Four Seasons.

Leading lady, Erica Piccininni, who starred in the original Broadway production of the Tony Award-winning musical also turned heads by wearing an extremely revealing dress.
The saucy starlet looked in fine form indeed as she hammed it up on the pre-show red carpet at the showpiece event.
She was impossible to ignore in her see-through lace dress, with just a leather bra and shorts combo preserving her modesty.

The redhead, who plays Lorraine, was having a great time as she enjoyed her big night, with her movie showing at the Los Angeles Film Festival's prestigious closing night.
The film was a passion project for music fan Clint, who said: 'What was fun for me is that it’s about musicians, much as Bird (his 1988 film about Charlie Parker) was about a jazz player.

'The Four Seasons had all these hit songs, but they were juvenile delinquents! They were just guys from the neighbourhood, a place where, if you were a singer, you were looked down upon as strange, unless you were Sinatra.'

The Telegraph says of the movie: 'Eastwood’s film version is a classy affair that goes beyond schmaltz and nostalgia (although it has its fair share of both of these.)
'One of its pleasures is its recreation of post-war America. It is shot in widescreen. The early scenes are in desaturated colours which give the sense that we really are back in the 1950s.' (More Pictures below)

Jersey Boys, movie review: 'Clint Eastwood's Broadway adaptation is a classy affair'

GEOFFREY MACNAB - Thursday 19 June 2014

There’s a wonderful scene midway through Clint Eastwood’s Jersey Boys. We catch a fleeting glimpse of a rugged young cowboy on a black and white TV screen - and it turns out to be none other than Eastwood himself, in an episode of his breakthrough series Rawhide.
In interviews, he has described this as his Hitchcock moment. It is certainly the 84-year-old filmmaker’s way of putting a personal imprint on what is a very unlikely project for him and of pointing out that he is exactly the same age as the characters whose story he is telling.
Eastwood makes westerns. He makes crime films and gritty dramas. We all know that he loves jazz and once directed a biopic of Charlie Parker. All that, though, is a long way from the world of Frankie Valli singing pop anthems in his high falsetto tenor in front of audiences of screaming teenage girls.
Jersey Boys is already a hugely successful Broadway musical. Eastwood’s film version is a classy affair that goes beyond schmaltz and nostalgia (although it has its fair share of both of these.) One of its pleasures is its recreation of post-war America. It is shot in widescreen. The early scenes are in desaturated colours which give the sense that we really are back in the 1950s.

There are quiffs, cars with fins, and scenes set in bowling alleys but the film never lapses into Grease-like caricature. The device of having characters talk direct to camera, commentating on events in which they themselves are participating, isn’t as jarring as might have been imagined. As in House Of Cards (in which Kevin Spacey’s rogue politician tips the audience the wink) we become quickly become accustomed to this style of storytelling.
In early 50s New Jersey, youngsters had three chances of escaping. They could either join the army or get “mobbed up” (that’s to stay, become involved in organised crime) or “become famous.”
There are obvious overlaps between Jersey Boys and Goodfellas. Both are about youngsters from tight-knit Italian-American communities. One of Martin Scorsese’s favourite actors, Joe Pesci, grew up alongside the future members of the Four Seasons. Portrayed here by Joseph Russo, he is the one who introduces songwriter Bob Gaudio to the other members of the band. Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), the young hustler who pulls the band together, struts around like a character in a gangster movie. Everyone in the community looks up to Gyp DeCarlo (played in typically scene stealing fashion by Christopher Walken), a mobster boss who wears silk dressing gowns, perfectly tailored suits and has a strong sentimental streak. (Valli’s singing brings tears to his eyes.)

The early scenes in which the band members blunder around New Jersey, eking out a living through dead end jobs in barber shops and bowling alleys, play like something out of Federico Fellini’s I Vitelloni or a Damon Runyon story. The Jersey boys dream of the big time but, at least at first, they get absolutely nowhere.
Eastwood can’t escape the clichéd nature of films about bands. Inevitably, there are the years of struggle. Then comes the giddy period of early fame and success. Next follow the recriminations, broken marriages and unpaid tax bills. It’s at this point that the band splits up and its members tell each other they won’t perform together until hell freezes over. Then, in the final reel, the band is bound to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame amid scenes of semi-sincere reconciliation. You can’t blame the screenwriters for following a hackneyed old formula. This is simply the way that it always seems to happen.

At least, Eastwood has a sense of humour in the way he tells the story of The Four Seasons. The band’s choice of name comes when they see it on a neon sign. They grumble when they discover some other musician called Vivaldi has already used it. When they are being rejected by everybody, one of the criticisms of Valli is that, yes, he has a nice voice but he “is not Neil Sedaka.” We see the band members walking through New York’s Brill Building, knocking on the doors of music producers and publishers and being rejected by everyone. “Not bad. Come back when you’re black,” the crestfallen young Italian-Americans are told by one sardonic producer. Then, after countless rejections, comes the moment of epiphany. Producer Bob Crewe realises that if he “doubles Frankie’s voice,” it will “explode” off the radio.
Alison Eastwood at the première 

Detractors have already called Jersey Boys a “jukebox movie” in which the narrative and characterisation is merely there as padding between the songs.That’s unfair. The songs are very upbeat but the storytelling here has a surprisingly gloomy undertow. Success doesn’t bring the band members the happiness or even the wealth that might have been expected. Valli himself (played in engaging, wide-eyed fashion by John Lloyd Young) ends up on the road, performing 200 concerts a year, estranged from his own family. At his lowest ebb, alone in a diner, he has only a cockroach for company.

The film is structured little untidily. There aren’t climactic moments in which they die in a hail of bullets (as the might in a gangster film) or find true love (as they might in a romantic melodrama.) The big musical set-piece that ends the film feels forced and the make-up of the musicians as old men isn’t remotely convincing.
Jersey Boys is a nostalgic film but the nostalgia isn’t just about wallowing in pop songs that an older generation once savoured. The real yearning here is that of the characters for their lost youth. As in so many stories about friends from the same neighbourhood, they eventually realise that their best years were precisely when they were young delinquents dreaming of escape. This is the paradox that makes the film seem so affecting and personal in spite of its many contrivances.
Clint Eastwood, 134 mins, starring: John Lloyd Young, Vincent Piazza, Erich Bergen, Christopher Walken

Clint Eastwood's Frankie Valli biopic is possibly the feel-good film of the year

Mirror film reviewer David Edwards says Clint's adaptation of the stage musical is more a musical biopic along the lines of Walk the Line or Ray
Given that recent entries on his CV include serious-minded films such as Changeling, J. Edgar, Hereafter and Invictus, Clint Eastwood seems to be taking a major career swerve by adapting this stage musical. Yet between the show-stoppers is a thought-provoking look at the corrosive effects of fame, the fallout that comes from getting your priorities wrong, and the ebb and flow of long-term friendship.
It all makes for a gloriously entertaining and emotionally resonant journey – and certainly the best thing I’ve seen this year. We catch up with young Frankie Castelluccio, who’s mixed up in a life of small-time thieving in early-1960s New Jersey with the hot-headed Tommy DeVito.

Frankie, when not in the slammer, plays with a local band. While the group is going nowhere, its fortunes change when his voice earns him promotion to lead vocalist and the prodigiously gifted songwriter Bob Gaudio comes aboard. After a series of false starts, the group, now called The Four Seasons, hit the big time with Sherry and go on to conquer the world.
With Frankie changing his surname to Valli, fame and misfortune follow as the demands of touring place a terrible strain on his home life, while Tommy’s gambling problem prompts an intervention from Christopher Walken’s mobster.

While Jersey Boys is crammed with tunes, this isn’t a musical but more a musical biopic along the lines of Walk the Line or Ray. Eastwood seems more concerned with the human toll exacted on working-class boys who suddenly find themselves with too much money. Also, in the case of Tommy and Frankie, he focuses on the poisonous effect it has on those the boys come into contact with.

Eastwood – now 84 – is a director whose greatest gift is his ability to push his audience’s emotional buttons without them knowing it. Cinema snobs may accuse him of having the subtlety of a flying steamroller, but no filmmaker alive has produced so many solidly entertaining movies in the past 10 years. Jersey Boys – perhaps the feel-good film of the year – is no different.

Try as he might, Clint Eastwood can’t overcome the problems of Jersey Boys

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky  June 19, 2014
Clint Eastwood, the big-time jazzbo who shoots every scene as though it were set inside of a coffin, is an odd fit for a feature-length tribute to the age of matching-blazer music. Nonetheless, he directs the hell out of Jersey Boys, a jukebox musical about ’60s hit makers Frankie Valli And The Four Seasons; there aren’t many directors out there who could fluidly pull off three different fourth-wall-breaking on-camera narrators, or create the eerie chill of the moment where Valli (John Lloyd Young, who originated the role on Broadway) sings the opening verse of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” for the first time.

The unfortunate trade-off of Eastwood’s efficient, real-deal classical direction is his stubborn commitment to the script. In this case, that means eliding everything artistically interesting that the group ever did (like, say, The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette) and loading the back end of the movie with a mushy hit-by-hit structure that probably worked like gangbusters on stage, but drags on screen. Eastwood’s integrity puts the movie in a double bind; he wholly commits to an underdeveloped drama that was designed only to set up extended musical numbers, and, in the process, makes the songs seem intrusive and padded.
Once the back-to-back concert montages kick in, the characters start shedding personality traits, paradoxically becoming less and less well developed as the movie draws to a close. Sensitive small-town wunderkind Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) turns into a generic priss with a Van Dyke beard; rough-edged slickster Tommy DeVito disappears altogether; and oafish bass player Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda) becomes, well, a less interesting oafish bass player. Valli’s independent-minded wife, Mary (Renée Marino), turns into a pill-popping shrew. Valli himself remains a total cypher; at first, the movie’s distance from him (he’s the only band member who doesn’t serve as a narrator) seems like a gutsy move. But by the final act, it begins to resemble unadulterated idol worship.

As Jersey Boys tells it, the group’s early years—narrated mostly by DeVito, who addresses the viewer like a guest who has to be shown around the neighborhood—were defined as much by crime as by music. (There’s a considerable overlap with Goodfellas, and hometown pal Joe Pesci—whose Goodfellas character was named after DeVito—turns up, played by Joey Russo.) DeVito is introduced working as a gofer for Genovese boss Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken); between nightclub sets, he pulls jobs with Massi. Valli serves as their lookout, using his powerful falsetto to signal when the cops are coming. Rehearsals are used as cover for burglaries. When straight-laced Gaudio signs on, he discovers that his bandmates make more money selling stolen clothes than playing shows.

There’s a big gulf between the group’s public image and its members’ personal lives, and that gulf only gets bigger once it’s factored in that the lyrics to most of their hits—and all of the songs included in Jersey Boys—were penned by the more-or-less openly gay Bob Crewe (Mike Doyle). There’s a story to be told here about the value of artifice and music as a kind of fantasy life, but Jersey Boys’ script (adapted by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice from their hit Broadway show) isn’t interested in telling it. Even Eastwood’s signature lean, overcast style—which manages to invest the vague and inconsistent narrative with a sense of place and atmosphere—can’t overcome Brickman and Elice’s fundamentally flawed structure, which feels like the first half of a period drama cut together with the middle third of a tribute show.

Jersey Boys: Clint Eastwood adaptation doesn’t stray far from the original

The Washington Post's Stephanie Merry reviews Clint Eastwood's movie adaptation of the Tony-award winning Broadway musical, "Jersey Boys." The film tells the story of the Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. (Jayne Orenstein / The Washington Post)

Movies of musicals are usually a crash course for Hollywood A-listers. Actors not known for their singing skills are suddenly expected to warble their way through a story. You see Meryl Streep shimmying and strutting to Abba in “Mamma Mia!” and Renee Zellweger hitting the high notes in “Chicago,” Johnny Depp cutting hair and throats while channeling Sondheim in “Sweeney Todd” and Hugh Jackman making us weep as Jean Valjean in “Les Misérables.”
And what of the Broadway superstars who gave the musicals the cachet to warrant the film adaptations? They’re still performing night after night, since their names aren’t recognizable enough to score big box office numbers — much less get proper introductions at the Oscars (ahem, Adele Dazeem).

“Jersey Boys” is an exception. The most recognizable stars in Clint Eastwood’s adaptation of the Tony-winning play about the 1960s band the Four Seasons are Christopher Walken and that guy from “The Sopranos” (who upon post-movie Googling turns out to be Steve Schirripa). John Lloyd Young plays Frankie Valli, a role the actor originated on Broadway. He won a Tony for his work, but this is only his second feature film after a 2009 romantic comedy called “Oy Vey! My Son Is Gay! ”
Of course, who in Hollywood could possibly mimic Frankie Valli’s formidable falsetto? Just imagine James Franco trying to get through “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” On second thought, don’t. Young might not be a household name, but he can sing and act onstage and onscreen. And the rest of the cast is also made up of musical theater talent: Michael Lomenda, who plays the deep-voiced Nick Massi, and Erich Bergen, as singer-songwriter Bob Gaudio, both return to roles they played during the show’s first national tour. The fourth band member, Tommy DeVito, is played by “Boardwalk Empire” regular Vincent Piazza.

The cast list isn’t the only way Eastwood stays true to the original incarnation. Seeing the movie onscreen is a lot like seeing it in a playhouse — and that’s okay. After all, the story is dramatic, with its tale of kids from a rough neighborhood who shoot to fame with catchy hit after catchy hit but can’t quite keep it together. Plus, the dialogue is witty and the music is phenomenal.

There isn’t a lot of fancy camera work or special effects, and the movie even retains the way characters directly addressed the audience in the play. This particular gimmick feels a little unnecessary in the adaptation. Facial expressions, which aren’t always visible to a theater audience, can do a lot of explaining in films: When Bob hears Frankie sing for the first time, for instance, a look of astonishment comes over his face before he turns to the camera and says, “After 30 seconds, I know I need to write for this voice.” But we figured that out already.

The movie, like the play, also overstuffs the plot. Valli suffered a harrowing family tragedy that makes its way into the narrative. Yet with so much attention paid to the band and so little to his personal life up until that point, the misfortune feels shoehorned into the story as a way to exhibit the hero hitting rock bottom.
Overall though, fans of the play will be pleased. And for those that love the Four Seasons’ music but haven’t made it to the play, you can put your fear of missing out to rest. This is a much more affordable way to very nearly re-create the experience.

Clint Eastwood's film adaptation shows reverence for music, but stumbles dramatically

John Serba – Mlive 20th June 2014
Traditionally, Clint Eastwood has been a filmmaker exercising precision, simplicity and an eye for detail. His directing an adaptation of a major Broadway musical such as “Jersey Boys” seems like a major aesthetic disparity, for song-and-dance complexity and back-row appeal are what make such productions popular hits.

That’s why this big-screen “Jersey Boys” is so uneven. Eastwood roughs up the Broadway gloss with sandpaper, bringing his predilection for traditional biopics and regional grit to the origin story of Frank Valli and the Four Seasons. He keeps the band members’ direct address of the audience in the narrative, and foregoes any flashy choreography for standard-issue song performances, staging them in clubs, theaters or in front of TV-studio audiences. Only during the end credits does the film resemble a traditional Hollywood musical, Eastwood assembling the full cast for a tacked-on run through “December 1963 (Oh What a Night).”

Eastwood plucked three primary cast members from stage versions for the film, most notably, John Lloyd Young, who won a Tony playing Valli on Broadway in 2006; Michael Lomenda, as bassist Nick Massi, and Erich Bergen, as songwriter and keyboardist Bob Gaudio, come from the touring company. They can handle the story’s lighter elements and, being musicians, sing and play their instruments convincingly. When the drama intensifies, requiring the cast to bear more emotional weight, seams in the transition from stage to screen begin to show. Eastwood’s insistence on employing the same actors for characters aging significantly during the narrative doesn’t set them up to succeed – Young, who’s 38, is asked to play Valli at both 16 and 56, and ends up looking ridiculous, swamped in unconvincing old-age makeup, during the film’s final scenes.
The film’s biggest problem is an inability to deliver outside the familiar tropes of music-biz biographies. Valli and his band mates grew up as juvenile delinquents in Newark – their options were “The army, the mob or fame.” Valli’s best friend, guitarist Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), does time for theft and breaking and entering, and never really straightens himself out despite the group’s march to mainstream success. DeVito is confrontational, argumentative and controlling. Worst of all, he greatly mismanages the group’s substantial earnings, which is a nice way of saying he squanders a lot of it at the racetrack. He and Valli have the ear of moneyed mob boss Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken), who’s helpful when loan sharks stalk DeVito backstage.

“Jersey Boys” is one of Eastwood’s sloppier efforts. Comedic moments clunk when they should crackle. He ignores some of the basics of continuity – subplots are dropped, and he doesn’t even bother to explain how many children Valli has (one scene shows three, but only one bears any significant impact on the story). As the plot pushes forward, the audience is left to guess what year it is by eyeballing sideburns and polyester pants. When Valli’s wife, Mary (Renee Marino, another stage veteran ill-suited for the nuance of film acting), confronts him for his infidelities – a scene we’ve experienced in most every musician biopic – we’re not even sure if her accusations are substantiated or not.

All of this is very un-Eastwood. He reserves his precision for performances of iconic songs such as “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like a Man”; Young’s ability to expertly mimic Valli’s distinctive falsetto, and reproductions of the Four Seasons’ appearances on “American Bandstand” and “The Ed Sullivan Show” are sure to invoke nostalgia from Eastwood’s generation. (The filmmaker has said in interviews that he deems the Four Seasons more culturally important than The Rolling Stones and The Beatles.) The film is an uneven mix of the heightened reality of Broadway storytelling, and the earnest authenticity the filmmaker has so expertly captured with past triumphs (“Unforgiven,” “Letters from Iwo Jima,” “Mystic River,” “Million Dollar Baby”). His take on “Jersey Boys” seemed ill-fated from the start.

Clint Eastwood's "Jersey Boys" doesn't hit enough high notes

By Lisa Kennedy, Denver Post Film Critic 18th June

Christopher Walken and his cast mates in "The Deer Hunter" have long owned the finest example of Four Seasons music on the big screen.
In 1979's searing drama, as Walken and Robert De Niro shoot pool in a Pennsylvania bar, the hitmakers' "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" begins on the jukebox. By the time frontman Frankie Valli and his cohort crescendo, Walken, John Savage and John Cazale are belting "I love you, baby, and if it's quite all right..."
The beautiful news is, years later that celluloid scene still wows. There is, however, less encouraging news for those hoping director Clint Eastwood's version of the Tony-nominated musical "Jersey Boys" would rival its original in zest and edge. After 134 minutes of Valli & Co., Walken & Co. still own the title for best big-screen appearance of the Four Seasons. Although a canny bit of casting means Walken, as mobster Angelo "Gyp" DeCarlo, who took a protective shine to Frankie and that voice, possesses one of the better moments here, too.
More plodding than it has a right to be, "Jersey Boys" recounts the rise of one of pop's most successful acts, consisting of Valli (John Lloyd Young), Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda) and Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen), who, after being the Four Lovers for a spell took a name that's lasted more than a few seasons.

Before the Beatles hit these shores, the boys from Belleville and Bergenfield, N.J., dominated the pop charts. When songwriter Gaudio comes to the group, thanks to the hustle of a Jersey pal by the name of Joe Pesci, something clicks. When record producer and co-songsmith Bob Crewe (Mike Doyle) signs them, they take off. And how: Their first three singles: "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry" and "Walk Like a Man," topped the charts.

The leads have theatrical bona fides. Young won the Tony for his turn as Frankie. Lomenda and Bergen each played their characters in national tours. These impressive musical theater credentials only underscore how different screen and stage can be: same family, different species. Of the leads, the two who are most comfortable with the camera's peculiar requirements are Doyle and Piazza; each has big- and small-screen experience.
When it comes to adaptations, we shouldn't demand better so much as hope for "just as good but different." "The Fault in Our Stars" isn't as edgy onscreen as on the page, but it's faithful in spirit and often beguiling in execution.

Eastwood's longtime cinematographer, Tom Stern, has a fondness for a sober palette of tans and grays. Here it puts the movie in too somber a mood. Sure there's an earned "hood in the boys" aspect to "Jersey Boys" which has an R rating due to the language. Massi and DeVito both spend time in stir, and DeVito gets in deep with a loan shark. There is a lot of darkness to the behind-the-scenes tale of success. A neglected marriage finally gives way. A child dies. DeVito makes a Faustian bargain that leads to an implosion.
The screenplay was written by the Broadway show's dynamic duo Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, which may explain why "Jersey Boys" doesn't take better advantage of the movie-making. Aptly if somewhat awkwardly, "Jersey Boys' finds its most soulful moment in a movie version of a curtain call. Only it's pretty complicated when a movie's most rousing moment comes as the closing credits roll.

You’re Just Too Good to Be True

‘Jersey Boys,’ Eastwood’s Take on Showbiz Myth - By MANOHLA DARGISJUNE 19, 2014

At the end of “Jersey Boys,” Clint Eastwood’s likable, resolutely laid-back adaptation of the Broadway musical, the actors all freeze. They’ve just performed their last song on a set that looks so artificial that you half-expect the Sharks and the Jets to leap into the frame. Instead, that Jersey music man Frankie Valli and the other Seasons, along with a crowd of central-casting types, gather one last time and together warble and fancy-foot down a back-lot street. They finish big and then they all stop, staring straight ahead as sweat pops and bodies tremble under the now harsh lighting. That’s entertainment, baby, and it is hard work.

 “Jersey Boys” is a strange movie, and it’s a Clint Eastwood enterprise, both reasons to see it. For those with a love of doo-wop, it also provides a toe-tapping, ear-worming stroll down rock ’n’ roll memory lane that dovetails with that deeply cherished American song and dance about personal triumph over adversity through hard work, tough times and self-sacrifice. It’s a redemption narrative that’s got a good beat, and you can dance to it. No wonder it’s been such a popular trip: The stage version of “Jersey Boys” opened in 2005 on Broadway, where it’s still going strong, and has long been printing money around the world, from Australia to South Africa.
Clint Eastwood, left, and executive producer Frankie Valli on the set
Like the original musical, the movie was written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice and has a clever, inviting narrative gimmick: all four of the Seasons take turns telling the group’s tale. This has led to the musical’s being sloppily likened to “Rashomon,” a comparison that works only if you’ve never seen that 1950 Akira Kurosawa touchstone. In “Rashomon,” four characters recount a traumatic episode in a forest — a woman is raped and her husband murdered — in separate, contradictory flashbacks. Together, the four versions don’t add up to one unified, coherently climaxing story: The mystery remains unsolved and the reminiscences remain contingent, which makes the film as much about storytelling as a crime.

The stakes and tension are lower in “Jersey Boys,” which is narrated largely in chronological order by the group’s four members, sometimes while they’re talking right into the camera. Unlike “Rashomon,” these memoirists don’t necessarily return to the same scenes. Instead, their story opens with some text that sets the place and time (New Jersey, the 1950s) before settling on Tommy DeVito (a charismatic Vincent Piazza), who’s speed-talking while sauntering down a street. With the camera tagging along, he guides the story into a barbershop, where a young Frankie Castelluccio (John Lloyd Young), is nervously training, as a local gangster, Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken), holds court in a chair, telegraphing the Mob’s role in this story.

The old-timey milieu of the barbershop, a favorite staging ground for films about the Mafia (including “The Godfather”), is an early indication of Mr. Eastwood’s self-consciously artificial approach. This is cemented in other early scenes, starting with Frankie and his parents slurping spaghetti while throwing around snatches of Italian, all in view of an ornamental wall clock that’s bracketed by images of the pope and Frank Sinatra. Minutes later, Frankie is out the door, waiting on a dark street and playing lookout for Tommy, who’s around the corner trying to steal a safe. A beat cop emerges from the shadows with a smile and asks Frankie why he’s out. Frankie says he’s wooing a girl and starts singing as if to prove it.

The whole thing looks and sounds so canned — from the conspicuousness of a set that’s been vacuumed of the dirt of real life to the goofily contrived setup — it’s a surprise that the Bowery Boys don’t swing by, too. (Every scene seems to point to another film allusion.) If the family-dinner caricatures register as mildly amusing, the bit with the cop is played even more broadly. The events that immediately follow, showing Tommy, Frankie and a third pal trying to pinch the safe, actually crosses into full-bore slapstick. 

That tension reverberates throughout “Jersey Boys” as a mythopoeic tale emerges from thick accents (dis, dat and da odder), false starts, personnel shifts and name changes. A genius, Bob Gaudio (a very good Erich Bergen), enters the group courtesy of a mutual friend: Joey a.k.a. the future Joe Pesci (an amusing Joseph Russo who’s got Mr. Pesci’s “O.K., O.K.” down). Frankie rechristens himself Valley only to Italianize it as Valli, and then he and the other guys, including Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda), land on the name the Four Seasons. They meet a producer, Bob Crewe (Mike Doyle, very good), and together find their groove. And, in 1962, they begin mining gold, starting with “Sherry” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry.”

The songs and some of the actors pull you into the story even as other performers and some of Mr. Eastwood’s choices wrench you out. Mr. Young originated the role of Frankie on Broadway, and he persuasively approximates Mr. Valli’s patented strangled falsetto if not its weird beauty. Mr. Young certainly catches your ear and attention when he’s scaling those heights, but once the music fades, so does he. That’s partly because the Frankie of “Jersey Boys” turns out to be really dull: nice, square and uncomplicated to a fault. That might not matter if Mr. Young were a more expressive screen presence, yet he’s oddly inert, especially around his eyes, which here — partly because of Mr. Eastwood’s fondness for working with a dark, almost monochromatic palette — remain frustratingly opaque.

It’s disappointing that Mr. Eastwood, a director who can convey extraordinary depths of feeling in his work, didn’t do more with this material. Frankie’s scenes with his family tend to be embarrassingly bad, including a blowout with his wife, Mary (Renée Marino), that devolves into a wincing battle between the selfish male artist and the volubly unhappy woman at home. It’s enough to make you wish that movies like these didn’t bother with the little women in the lives of these big men. Worse yet are the scenes with Frankie and his troubled daughter, Francine (played by different performers), whose role here is, appallingly, to do little more than pump her father’s tears. The family stuff seriously undermines the musical’s claims on the truth.

“Jersey Boys” at first seems like a curious choice for Mr. Eastwood, particularly given the heft of many of his films. And it may be that he just liked the show. It’s hard not to think that there’s something personal here, too, as suggested by the clip from “Rawhide” — the 1950s television show that broke Mr. Eastwood — that plays before a character loses his virginity. This moment could be read as a Hitchcockian cameo or as a slyly suggestive joke about what turns boys into men. 

Yet, like the movie’s four finally harmonious narrators and its showstopping finale, the cameo is also a reminder that this isn’t just about a group, its struggles and comeback. It’s also about an American myth of success and all the singing, the smiling and the dissembling that goes into its making.

‘Jersey Boys’ review: Clint Eastwood’s homage to the Four Seasons is a crowd-pleaser

BY LIZ BRAUN JUNE 19, 2014 – Toronto Sun

Jersey Boys is part Broadway show, part film biopic and wholly a showcase for the music of the Four Seasons.
The film is a weird hybrid. Stagey and theatrical — characters speak directly to the camera as they move the story along — Jersey Boys is not so much a musical as it is a drama you can dance to. This is a homage to a particular hit sound and the guys who created it. The movie tells the story of the scrappy beginnings (and crime connections) of the musicians who became the Four Seasons. It's bio-lite, but highly entertaining. 

In the blue-collar town in New Jersey, we meet the apprentice barber, Francesco Castelluccio, soon to be known as Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young). Young Frankie has an unusual singing voice, and for his talent he's championed by a local mobster (Christopher Walken).

Frankie's friends in the neighbourhood include Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), a local mover and shaker who is not above criminal activity. The guys make music together, although in the early days various band members are in and out of jail for one con or another. They are eventually joined by Nick Massi (Canadian Michael Lomenda) and songwriter/singer Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen); the film suggests that producer Bob Crewe (Mike Doyle) was the person who finessed the distinctive Four Seasons sound.

Recording success follows. Professional triumph brings personal hardship, however, and all those days on the road take a toll on Frankie's marriage. Then there's Tommy, a loose cannon whose bad habits are exacerbated by success. He owes a lot of money to the wrong people. In between the drama and the heartbreak are the pop hits — Sherry, Big Girls Don't Cry, Dawn, Walk Like A Man, Rag Doll, Who Loves You — and the music is proof of what a phenomenal run the band had in its heyday.

The storytelling is less impressive. Jersey Boys is disjointed in some fundamental fashion and the pace is uneven. Also, there's not much context here to help make sense of the band's history, but maybe director Clint Eastwood is counting on nostalgia to fill in the blanks. As luck would have it, the music and the hitherto unknown story of the band's rags to riches trajectory are enough to keep your attention. And the film's song-and-dance finale alone is almost worth the price of admission. File Jersey Boys under crowd-pleaser.
Below: Clint during the filming of Jersey Boys

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