Lowdown: The personal story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
Clint Eastwood’s notorious show at the Republican convention, as well as his general support of the party, do not mean that he is relegated from his hard won status as one of my all time favourite directors (not to mention one of my all time favourite online aliases). With Jersey Boys, Eastwood is back to directing familiar themes: he follows real life musicians as he did in Bird, with these musicians coming in from tough neighbourhoods like the one the heroes of Mystic River hailed from.
This time around the tough neighbourhood is a particularly tough suburb of New Jersey and the musicians are Frankie Valli and the guys around him with whom he forms The Four Seasons band. It’s familiar themes for Eastwood and familiar themes for us viewers: there is nothing in this rise and fall and rise and fall and rise story we haven’t seen before. There is the criminal part of the equation, into which our heroes fall too easily; there are the women they fall in love and betray trust with; you get the gist. Adding to the aura of familiarity is a Christopher Walken acting out his standard mafia boss with a heart role.
There are three things that set Jersey Boys apart from things of the past. First is the music: this is a musical through and through, designed to look and feel like the stage production it came from. If you love Valli’s music you’ll have a hell of a time with this fine production here - all the hits are there for the picking. There is even the typical get together of the entire cast at the very end of the movie, just like in Broadway, and the cast will frequently break invisible walls to talk directly to the audience.
Second is the Eastwood factor, sprinkling the otherwise ordinary with touches of brilliance. Like the scene in which our group of musicians first visits a music company while the camera pans across the outside of the building from bottom to top, as if tracing the heroes’ journey through the building from the outside. Us viewers end up witnessing different would be musicians as they audition for their bid of fortune and glory through the windows of each floor the camera passes by. Then there is the short Eastwood cameo when Valli sits to watch some period black & white TV (Eastwood is on TV, playing in some old Western).
Third is Jersey Boys overstaying its welcome. At two hours and a quarter, this movie is simply too long for its own good; we actually got to the stage where we checked how long it has to go, unable to believe we have to endure another half an hour of more of the same.
Overall: A fine musical that’s not too special otherwise. Definitely worth watching if you like that kind of music (I don’t mind it, but I cannot claim to be a fan), but otherwise not one of Eastwood’s best; probably another of his works of love to the world of music. 3 out of 5 melodic crabs.