Jersey Boys
dir Clint Eastwood
scr Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice
prd Clint Eastwood, Graham King, Tim Headington, Robert Lorenz
with John Lloyd Young, Vincent Piazza, Erich Bergen, Michael Lomenda, Christopher Walken, Mike Doyle, Renee Marino, Erica Piccininni, Joey Russo, Donnie Kehr, Steve Schirripa, Jeremy Luke
release US/UK 20.Jun.14
14/US Warner 2h14
Jersey Boys
Oh, what a night: Piazza, Bergen, Young and Massi

walken eastwood
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Jersey Boys The triumphant stage show about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons is brought to the big screen by an odd choice of filmmaker: Clint Eastwood. He tells the tale as a gritty, mob-infused drama about young stars with shady pasts, a gloomy narrative that never catches the toe-tapping energy of the iconic songs.

In 1951, Frankie (Young) works in a barbershop frequented by mobster Gyp (Walken), while getting in trouble with pals Tommy and Nick (Piazza and Massi). Short stints in jail follow, but they channel their talents into forming a band, joined by songwriter Bob (Bergen). Then a producer (Doyle) helps them craft three No 1 songs in a row - Sherry, Big Girls Don't Cry and Walk Like a Man - and they rocket to superstardom. But the stresses of touring and Tommy's ongoing financial woes strain them to the breaking point.

Screenwriters Brickman and Elice make some odd decisions in adapting their Broadway musical, most notably trying to include stagey straight-to-camera narration that constantly throws us out of the story (the most jarring instance is when Nick starts chatting in the middle of their performance on the iconic Ed Sullivan Show). There are also severe structural problems, including a slow stretch in the middle and an extended flashback that's bewildering because the film otherwise has no sense of the passage of time.

Indeed, this story seems to exist in a timeless netherworld utterly removed from what was happening in America in the 1960s and 70s. Aside from one witty glimpse of a young Eastwood on TV in Rawhide, there is no pop-culture context. It's left to the music to push things along. These classic songs are strikingly performed by the cast on stages, in studios and around pianos with plenty of spark. And the actors also handle the dramatic scenes well, even if the make-up fails to age them convincingly.

Why Eastwood opted to shoot this like a noir period drama is anyone's guess. Cinematographer Tom Stern and production designer James Murakami collaborated with Eastwood on the similarly lifeless and colour-drained Changeling, but surely this story calls for some sparkle. It also needs a stronger sense of electricity in the dramatic scenes to make up for a rather standard narrative. It's entertaining to see the story behind the songs, but real life isn't quite this grey.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 16.Jun.14

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Jersey Boys Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall