TMN Movie Review: "Jersey Boys"

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Rating: R
Length: 134 minutes
Release Date: June 20, 2014
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Genre: Biography / Drama / Musical

Based on the Broadway musical, Clint Eastwood's "Jersey Boys" explores the captivating story of the Four Seasons, one of the most iconic musical groups of 1960s. With an impressive mix of Hollywood stars, such as Christopher Walken, and talented artists straight from the Great White Way, "Jersey Boys" delivers a powerful punch of drama, intrigue and music. While the film eschews some of the grittier aspects of the Four Seasons' history, it nevertheless presents an enjoyable story.

Fans of the jukebox musical are bound to appreciate the film's fidelity to the stage script, as "Jersey Boys" captures much of the appeal of the Broadway hit. The movie jumps into the action in a barbershop in New Jersey, where the future Frankie Valli is hard at work as an apprentice. Audiences are certain to find themselves captivated by the riveting plot, as the band members try to escape the poverty and misery that plagues their neighborhood. From tussles with mob bosses to extended stays in prison, "Jersey Boys" explores the difficult beginnings of the group with gusto.

For those unfamiliar with Clint Eastwood's musical talents, the directing choice may at first appear at odds with the film's content. Nevertheless, Eastwood's ear for melodies is evident, with impressive musical numbers scattered throughout the beginning of the film. If anything, the music is not present enough, simply because "Jersey Boys" lacks the big band numbers theatregoers experience at each stage performance. It takes some time for audiences to hear a full song. Additionally, most of the music in the film does not play an active role in the film's plot.

As the band's success begins to grow, Eastwood's work really shines. The unique filming style of "Jersey Boys" showcases the magic behind the scenes, as viewers experience the highs and lows of the band's trajectory to fame. Viewers eager to hear the big screen adaptations of some of the play's most popular songs are bound to love this segment of the film, which truly embodies the charm of the musical.

Unfortunately, after the band's iconic rise to fame, the film stutters somewhat. Interpersonal problems and drama take over the focus of "Jersey Boys" towards the end of the movie. In some ways, it feels as if the film experiences an identity crisis, as Eastwood tries to keep the focus on the music, while simultaneously portraying the difficult circumstances surrounding the band members. While it's far from perfect, the overall result is nevertheless a nuanced product that gives viewers a glimpse at life behind the scenes.

One interesting aspect worth mentioning is the film's narration by four different characters, which makes for a truly unique viewing experience. Moviegoers hear about the emotions and pain behind some of the band's missteps, which the director juxtapositions with iconic moments from the career of the Four Seasons. The ensemble cast makes a veritable impact on viewers, thanks to the sheer amount of talent on screen. When the band performs for the camera, it is clear that these actors have years of Broadway experience.

It is interesting to note that while "Jersey Boys" explores various facets of the Four Seasons' history, it neglects to explore the other aspects of the 1960s music scene. Viewers do not hear any mention of other bands or groups experiencing success in the same time frame, which may strike some as odd. In terms of telling the Four Seasons' story for what it is, "Jersey Boys" does an exceptional job. Nevertheless, the lack of cultural reference points may leave some audiences wishing for a bit more.

Viewers should also note that "Jersey Boys" steers clearer of some of the harder subjects in the Four Seasons' history. While ties with the mob make a small appearance, the film does not explore this facet in great detail. Some of the actors portraying band members also lack the oomph necessary in dramatic scenes. In spite of these challenges, the movie adequately portrays the personal lives of the band members with flair.

From the Four Seasons' cataclysmic rise to fame in the 1960s to the group's induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, there is no question that the story behind "Jersey Boys" deserves to be told. Just as theatregoers and critics alike greatly appreciate the stage production, fans are bound to love Clint Eastwood's adaptation of the play for the silver screen. While certain aspects could use a bit of tweaking, "Jersey Boys" keeps feet tapping and hearts beating throughout its 134-minute playing time.