The Four Seasons, a musical sensation that lasted throughout the years as one of the greatest bands of the 20th century. With uptown beats, a blend of instruments, and a high pitched Frankie Valli; this group led the charts for many years. So what is the entertaining world’s current trend in recognizing their achievements? Simple, they make plays and movies about the group, in particular about the origins and underlying story of the singing sensations. That’s right, my movie review is on Jersey Boys, the latest work of director Clint Eastwood.
Like most movies about singing legends, the underlying tone is dark, often the glamorous lifestyle of fame a mere cover for some tormenting background. If you didn’t get this from the movie trailer, or the title, I’m here to tell you that Jersey Boys is a tale of dark and dreary times. Right from the start we are thrown smack dab in the middle of a depressing neighborhood, filled with citizens whose dreams seem dead, with the exception of a few, as Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) introduces us to his life. In a curse filled, angry tone, one already gets a feeling the movie will have a more somber tone than any of the films I’ve seen in the past few weeks. Over the course of two hours, the tale grows darker, every ounce of happiness offset by seedy greed and selfish desires of one or two characters. While realistic, it became slow at points and bored me to wanting to take a nap. Now maybe it was the double feature after a day of work, but the truth is this movie dragged at points for me, especially in the beginning where I was waiting for them to actually sing something. Luckily the film picks up pace when the first song leaves Frankie’s golden throat, but after the brief span of nostalgic tunes, it hits a low point again. Yes, it sets up a tale that has lots of character development, but shorten the movie by a half an hour and you will still make your point.
Putting story aside, the recreated world of the 60’s was well executed, as various trends and commodities returned from the shelves of time. Various couples in the audience lit up with delight at being dragged back in time, commenting on how much fun establishments like that used to be. Regardless, the setting is well done, both costumes and makeup blending in with the artificial towns that changes, as the seasons grow older. While I am no expert in how the seasons looked, I felt the cast did a nice job of recreating them, styling hair and casting actors who looked and played the part. While the characters can be real sleaze balls, I think the fantastic four did a great job filling the epic shoes, and blending Jersey edge with Italian loyalty. Frankie (John Lloyd Young) in particular was my favorite character, a wide variety of emotion and qualities that made me most interested in his story. Of course seeing as the tale was more focused on him, I can’t tell how much was glamorized to make him look good, but still I rather enjoyed his character. As for the other actors, well I applaud their talent as well, each playing an integral role in “moving” the story along and providing a different angle on things.
Let’s talk about the part I enjoyed the most about Jersey Boys. No I’m not talking that it ending, I’m talking about the music. The one shred of light in this story is getting to hear the gang sing some of their big time hits. Is it live singing or well-rehearsed dub overs? I don’t know, but regardless I was moving my knees and bobbing to the rhythm as the Four Seasons played their melodies. The elaborate stage shows with their bright lights brightened the mood and temporarily eliminated the cloud of dismay I was feeling. Getting not one, but four songs as well, made me feel as if I wasn’t being gipped, and the fact they played the entire son, or at least most of it, was another plus that Eastwood did right. Of course, the only thing that I wished could have been different, was that these songs were not so clustered together, to help relieve some of the latter dramatic tension and depression, but Eastwood cant’ change history any more than we can.
Jersey Boys has the magic of bringing a world to life, however depressing that world may be. With a great cast, beautiful setting, and music that continues to span the test of time, Eastwood deserves applause for what he has done. Yet, it is slow, and not really a movie I can say deserves flocking to the theater to see, when it can be appreciated from the comforts of home, and cheaper as well. It may win an Oscar though, so if given the chance to see it take it, but hold your money for some of the other films coming in the next couple of weeks.
I give Jersey Boys: