“I remember thinking there was something off with this guy. This was 1959, people thought Liberace was just theatrical.”
With films like Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Unforgiven, and Gran Torino you’d never guess Clint Eastwood would direct a musical biography like this one. It is unlike any other film directed by him in the past couple of decades. Jersey Boys tells the true story of the musical quartet formed by a group of kids growing up in the streets of New Jersey who influenced rock and roll during the 60’s. Eastwood explores their trials and triumphs during these decades and balances the rather dull story with their great music. The film was adapted from the successful Broadway musical, but unfortunately it fails to capture some of that energy. My biggest issue with this film was the pacing which became tedious at times. It tried to cover so many years that it felt like some characters that were introduced early in the film were never really explored at all. At times the movie also feels like it’s playing it safe by following most conventions of the musical biopic genre. It tries to be different by breaking the fourth wall, but it never works. However, I did enjoy this film because of the music. It was great. The film succeeds when we get to see how they come up with the songs and then hear them perform them, but it fails when it tries to explore their relationships outside of the group. Eastwood’s film could’ve been so much better if the unnecessary subplots were cut out because the pacing becomes tedious at times.
I wasn’t familiar with the four lead actors in Jersey Boys, but they all gave strong performances. Their voices were phenomenal and the music was a pleasure to hear. John Lloyd Young played the same role he did in the Broadway musical as Frankie Valli, and he captures that unique voice in the film. Vincent Piazza as Tommy DeVito also delivers, but it’s Christopher Walken once gain who steals each scene he’s in. Walken plays the mobster, Gyp DeCarlo, who first discovers Frankie’s angelical voice. It’s a role Walken could perform in his sleep, but there is no one who can pull it off better than he can. The film could’ve used a bit more of his character and humor, especially when the story began to drag. Clint Eastwood is a director that I’ve learned to admire over the years, but this is one of his weakest films which lacked some of that spark from his other films. Jersey Boys simply plays it too safe and never delivers the punch.