Jersey Boys had a lot of potential, and aside from the fun musical performances, it ran on a 134-minute story that kind of fell flat. I’ll admit that I did not see the Broadway version of Jersey Boys, so I can’t compare this film to that. As a stand alone movie, though, there were some things that I enjoyed and some things I didn’t.
Clint Eastwood’s Jersey Boys is about the beginning and the end of the beloved musical group from the 60’s, “The Four Seasons.” It is the story of four boys from New Jersey who struggle for success in the music industry–Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young), Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda), and Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen). As with any kind of rock group, they have their ups and downs.
I think that since the story covered such a long period of time–from before they first formed the band to the moment they are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990–it struggled to add any kind of depth to the characters or the story in general. It seemed like a bland chronological order of events. Stuff happens, then they write a new song and perform it, then more stuff happens, then they perform another song. It’s like the story is just filler for the actual musical performances. You’re unaware of exactly how much time passes between these performances because the movie doesn’t tell you. You have to judge for yourself by the clothing style, how much Frankie’s daughter ages throughout the film, and by the songs they’re singing. I, for one, am not well-versed enough in the history of “The Four Seasons” to know the release dates of all their hit songs, so I was a little lost. Things happen very quickly in this movie. In one scene, Frankie takes this rather aggressive girl (Renée Marino) out on a date, and in the next scene they’re walking out of a church after having just got married. You don’t really have time to get a sense of who Frankie really is. Even when tragedy strikes him, there’s hardly enough emotion involved there for it to seem real. It’s kind of like, “OK this happened, look sad for a few seconds, all right let’s move on.”
I did really like the music, though. The performances were amazing, with the actors singing live on set. Honestly, it was the best part of the movie. Like I said, everything else just seemed like unexciting filler. The actors did a pretty good job despite the fact that they were working with a script that barely gave their characters anything real to work with. Vincent Piazza, who plays Tommy DeVito in the movie, was my personal favorite here. Maybe I’m biased because I love him as the infamous Lucky Luciano in the HBO show, Boardwalk Empire, but I thought he really carried the movie in a lot of ways. His character is rude and hot-headed and yet I still found him likable in a story where mostly all of the characters are presented as unlikable.
Christopher Walken plays Gyp DeCarlo, who is probably one of the nicest mob bosses I’ve ever seen in a movie. It’s really not any different than any role he would play…like anywhere. He’s pretty much playing himself at this point. Or maybe I can blame The Godfather, The Sopranos, Goodfellas, Boardwalk Empire and countless other mob movies/shows for making me stereotype all mob bosses as being not-so-pleasant killers.
There’s also a character in the film who hooks Bob Gaudio up with the rest of the band, and his name is Joe Pesci. According to the narration by Piazza’s character, he is indeed the Joe Pesci who would later end up being the film actor we all know today. That was sort of random, but cool. Which brings me to another point–the narration. Throughout the movie, the characters look into the camera during scenes and add their commentary to the story, breaking the fourth wall. This has been done plenty of times before, most recently, in Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. Sometimes this tactic works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Here, I think it added a little more to the film. It was a chance for the characters to get personal with the audience and add their usually humorous commentary as to what was going on. Some might hate it, but not me. It was a chance to see things through the individual’s perspective, adding a little bit more charm to the characters overall.
While Jersey Boys wasn’t a perfect film, I would be lying if I said I didn’t really enjoy some parts of it. The musical performances sounded great and were really entertaining and the actors were perfect for their roles. There were some moments when I actually laughed and some where I was just bored. Even with all the potential of Brick Marshall and Rick Elice’s script, the story just didn’t quite hit the mark. There was so much as far as quantity, but it lacked the quality it needed to really make it a great film. I’d say that, unless you’re only going specifically for the music, this is more worth watching at home when it comes out on video.