Based on the smash hit West End musical, Jersey Boys brings the toe tapping number one songs of the Four Seasons to the big screen. Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood seems like an unlikely director for the film adaptation of this popular show, but Eastwood has chosen to approach the production from an alternate angle. He depicts the film as more of a gritty drama about four young men from 1950s New Jersey than the jazzy, feel good spectacle we’d expect. At times, the film is a little slow-paced but the characters are very well developed, allowing viewers to care about the hardships faced by the Four Seasons throughout.
Eastwood’s attempt at creating a darker feel around the Four Seasons is certainly commendable for their story is not as shiny and cheerful as their catchy songs may lead one to believe. Full of crime, deceit, debt and heartbreak, Eastwood successfully portrays the lesser known tale of the famous group. However, it does seem that for the full two hours the film attempts to avoid admitting that at its core, it is a musical, with all songs performed only on stage and in appropriate context. This certainly adds to the type of realism which Eastwood may have been trying to achieve. Yet, much of this is undone by a finale of the entire cast (including Christopher Walken) singing and dancing in the streets. Although this scene is very enjoyable and certainly gets heads nodding, it questions what type of film it is, leaving audiences a little bewildered.
Credit must be given to Walken in his role of Gyp DeCarlo. Many of the other performances are sometimes overly exaggerated, probably due to the actors’ history in performance theatre, but Walken finds a perfect balance between acting for a musical and acting for film. His throw-away comments create excellent humour and his portrayal of Gyp’s belief in Frankie Valli and his singing companions is almost heart-warming.
Many aspects of the film give a nod toward the stage production, attempting at times to recreate notable scenes including the group’s first television performance. On stage, this has an excellent presence but on film it does not quite have the same impact. It is clear that lovers of the stage show will appreciate these small references, but perhaps they should have been altered to be slightly better suited to the big screen.
The hits of the Four Seasons are undoubtedly the stars of this production, including all of the group’s best known and beloved songs such as, ‘Oh What a Night!’, ‘Walk Like A Man’ and ‘Sherry’. These tracks have not dated over the decades and are certainly what draws audiences back to Broadway and the West End again and again. Sadly though, it felt at times that these songs were cut a little short to create extra time for the more dramatic moments of the epic story of the Four Seasons. Significantly, Jersey Boys is a musical which truly responds to the reaction of a live audience and this absence is felt throughout, often leaving a period of flatness after the climaxes of major songs. Although all of the hits are captured within the film, they did not receive the full amount of air time which they undeniably deserve.
One should not expect the same level of sensation and spectacle which is offered by the stage show, but Eastwood’s Jersey Boys will leave audiences humming the tunes for days.