Cinema Review – Jersey Boys

Based on the hit musical of the same name, Jersey Boys is the story of how four young men from New Jersey left behind their loves of petty crime, to form the iconic band, The Four Seasons. Although it would seem that making a movie of an acclaimed stage show is a recipe for success, the adaptation of Jersey Boys is not a story that ran smoothly. In 2012, Jon Favreau was set to direct the film, before being replaced by Clint Eastwood. This may seem like an odd choice, and the end result is even odder. The cast of Jersey Boys is made up of actors who have worked on the various incarnations of the stage show, with John Lloyd Young winning a Tony Award in 2006 for his role as Frankie Valli; a role which he reprises here. The problem with casting actors who are familiar with the material is just that; they are familiar with the material and, instead of creating the performance for the screen, it often feels as though the performances in Jersey Boys were simply transplanted from the stage, meaning these characters rarely feel properly fleshed out. Christopher Walken is amusing but criminally underused as Gyp DeCarlo and is completely sidelined in the one scene where he actually gets to dance. Screenwriters Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice don’t actually seem to have adapted their stage script for the screen at all, but turned up on the first day of shooting with a scenario that worked for the theatre. This leads to some odd, fourth wall breaking narration and characters walking off screen in the middle of lines of dialogue. The years of the story zip by at lickety speed, leaving the audience wondering just which era they are in, and unsure of which stage of the story we are at. There are some lovely scenes, such as the first time the Four Seasons actually sing together, but it is entirely possible to watch the entire film and come out none the wiser about the characters involved. Clint Eastwood can be a great director, as he proved with Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino and others, but it seems that he is completely out of his element with Jersey Boys. Either that, or he saw the stage show one too many times, making the film feel like a recorded version of the stage show, rather than a fully fleshed out musical for the screen. The film seems to operate in a bubble free of history, or anything outside the world of the band, meaning that we never really get a feel for the era, for fame or for the sacrifices these characters made for success. Flashbacks don’t help proceedings, nor do outdated shooting methods – rear screen projection for a scene in a car – narration to camera that comes and goes, a literal lightbulb moment and some seriously dodgy ageing makeup. Jersey Boys is a film filled with great songs, but little else. The performances are one note – sorry! – and the screenplay seems more concerned with getting through the events than telling the audience about the characters we are spending time with. At 134 minutes, the film is not brief, and to come out with a song in your head but little else, is seriously underwhelming. Rating: 2/5

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