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Jersey Boys

2014-08-15 14:05
What's it about:

The film tells the story of four young men from the wrong side of the tracks in New Jersey who came together to form the iconic 1960s rock group, “The Four Seasons.” The story of their trials and triumphs is accompanied by the songs that influenced a generation, including Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Walk Like a Man, Dawn, Rag Doll, Bye Bye Baby, Who Loves You, and many more.

What we thought:

Clint Eastwood brings the hit Broadway musical to the big screen in this big production. With an impressive résumé of 42 major worldwide awards including a Tony and a Grammy only the big guns could take on the film version of this very popular show. But alas, even big guns misfire.

I had the opportunity to watch Jersey Boys live last year and it was amazing; the energy, the story, the atmosphere, the costumes and the music was an experience that I thoroughly enjoyed! Needless to say I was curious to see if the big screen version would capture all of it. The only time I really felt all of these were during the last 10 minutes of the movie when Franki Vallie takes to the stage to perform the hit, Can’t Take Me Eyes Off You and when the cast ends the show belting out the hit December 1963 (Oh What A Night). I have to admit I did what to get up and jig along.

Based on the true story of Franki Vallie and The Four Seasons the film chronicles the rise and fall of the popular band. Holding true to the stage version we are told the story through the eyes of three of the founding members Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda), and Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) who turn directly to the camera to address the viewer.

The story begins in 1951 when Franki (John Lloyd Young) a 17-year-old apprentice barber with a unique voice teams up with friend Tommy and his friend Nick to start a band. Franki is a well liked guy who forms a friendship with mob boss Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walker).

For years the group hustle for gigs until they meet Bob a singer-songwriter. More hustling to stay relevant until they strike it lucky and blow up with their hit singles, Sherry, Big Girls Don't Cry, and Walk Like a Man. They’re at the top of their game when they appear on American Bandstand and The Ed Sullivan Show.

But things soon take a turn for the worse when Tommy’s behind the scenes wheeling and dealing and gambling poses a threat to the success of the group. And just like that the group disintegrates with Franki going on his own to pay off Tommy’s debts. While Tommy was the main reason for the group breaking up each member played a part in the downfall. Franki struggled to balance his personal life and his work life and Bob was more interested in writing than singing.

My main gripe with the movie is that that music that makes up so much of the stage production and the story takes a backseat in the film. The film is too dialogue heavy and in the end there is no real emotional payoff for the viewer.

Each actor produces a solid performance.  John Lloyd who played Franki in the stage production really brings the sound of Franki to life. His voice is amazing and to Eastwood’s credit deciding to film the actors singing live does bring a bit of Broadway to screen.  

Vincent Piazza’s portrayal of the leader of the band is gripping to watch. He brings a touch of humanity to this very flawed individual who at the heart of it all had good intentions.
Christopher Walken does an outstanding job of mob boss with a bit a sensitive side. He is the most enjoyable to watch.

While on the surface it is a beautifully produced film with great acting I felt that it lacks heart; that WOW factor is missing. If you’re a fan of the band I have no doubt that you’ll enjoy taking a trip down memory lane and if you’re a fan of the stage production don’t expect too much.

Jersey Boys hits all the right notes musically but fails to strum the heartstrings.
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