(US - 2014)
Directed by Clint Eastwood. Written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice. Cast: John Lloyd Young, Erich Bergen, Michael Lomenda, Vincent Piazza, Christopher Walken, Mike Doyle, Kathrine Narducci, Renee Marino, Freya Tingley, Steven J. Schirripa, Erica Piccininni, Joseph Russo, Donnie Kehr, Lou Volpe, Elizabeth Hunter. (R, 134 mins)
JERSEY BOYS, the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, became a Broadway phenomenon in 2005, going on to win the Tony for Best Musical and Best Lead Actor for John Lloyd Young as Valli. Young recreates the role for Clint Eastwood's big-screen version, which is not quite the adaptation that fans of the original musical or its many touring permutations might be expecting. The Broadway production, with a book by 1970s Woody Allen collaborator Marshall Brickman (ANNIE HALL, MANHATTAN) and Rick Elice, was anchored by a "Rashomon structure," which told the group's story from the vastly different POV of the four members, each under the guise of spring, summer, winter, and fall to make up the Four Seasons, supported and propelled by the group's songs. It all tied in together nicely, but Eastwood, working from a script by Brickman and Elice, almost completely abandons that concept other than occasional fourth-wall-breaking comments, but mainly, the focus is whittled down to just Frankie Valli. Eastwood also jettisons the whole "musical" element. On the stage, JERSEY BOYS uses the music of the Four Seasons to tell the story, but on the screen, it's a standard-issue backstage biopic where the live performances and studio recording sessions essentially function in the place of where a montage might go. A lavish musical with big production numbers might've been a challenge for Eastwood, but his vision of JERSEY BOYS is pretty much a Scorsese-lite gangster saga peppered with some timeless Four Seasons songs, glossing--sometimes quite sloppily--over details, cutting corners, and taking dramatic license when it's convenient or when something might make co-executive producer Frankie Valli look bad. On the surface, it's a reasonably entertaining film and the musical performances are fine, and, unlike of a lot of Eastwood's directing efforts, it moves rather briskly, but by the end, it's all surface: if you want a BEHIND THE MUSIC breakdown of the Four Seasons, you'll learn more from their Wikipedia page than you will here.