Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: John Lloyd Young, Erich Bergen, Michael Lomenda
134 mins; Class 12; KRS Releasing Ltd
One of the most admirable aspects of Clint Eastwood’s directorial career is his eclectic choice of material. That the Man with No Name, the protagonist of many a spaghetti Western, would kick off his career with the critically-acclaimed psychological thriller Play Misty for Me (1971) possibly surprised many at the time, but it was simply a sign of what was to come.
He has never sat on his laurels, always selecting gripping, character-driven, and dramatic stories, churning out success after award-winning success almost consistently.
Forty-three years and 32 films (as director) later, Eastwood attempts a musical. And, if his adaptation of hit Broadway musical Jersey Boys does not rank among his best, he and his production team have perfectly created the sights and sounds of the era, and it boasts some extraordinary musical moments which will most certainly appeal to music lovers of the period.
Jersey Boys charts the rise and rise of iconic 1960s band The Four Seasons. Two best friends from Newark, New Jersey, Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young) and Tommy De Vito (Vincent Piazza) are fully aware that a life of crime awaits them, unless they focus on something else.
A surprising lack of emotion and depth to the characters
Tommy puts their mutual love of music to good use and, under the patronage of mob boss Gyp De Carlo (Christopher Walken, hamming it up just a tad), he and Frankie are joined by songwriter Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) and bassist Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda).
They perform under the banner of The Four Seasons, finally scoring a record contract and eventually hitting it big with a string of successes that remain popular to this day.
It’s a story that has certainly captured the imagination of multitudes of theatregoers since Jersey Boys the show debuted in 2005. Yet, in its transfer to the big screen, the story loses some of its theatricality.
And it is in the scenes in between numbers that the story slumps somewhat, highlighting a surprising lack of emotion and depth to the characters.
That said, the film truly comes to life in the musical numbers. The a cappella croonings that first showcased Valli’s incredible falsetto voice and the vibrant scenes of the band in performance at their peak, with stupendous renditions of hits like Sherry, Walk Like a Man and Big Girls Don’t Cry will evoke a wave of nostalgia .
The four protagonists, led by Young – who deservedly won all of Broadway’s top prizes for his incredible performance as Valli – simply shine. They create spot-on covers of the original songs and there is no denying their musical nous, harmonious singing voices and energy of their performances.