Jersey Boys - A good taste of music history, but struggled to hit the high notes - 2.5 stars

The Four Seasons and Frankie Valli are remembered for their unique sound which allows their music to live on today. The stage production has been a worldwide phenomenon, but can Jersey Boys make beautiful music on the big screen? 

Walking into the cinema...
The producers of the film have to be reliant on the success of the stage production and the  person behind the camera for it to replicate the success on the big screen. As a director, Clint Eastwood has shown a respect for music throughout his career and has a challenge of getting this popular show to the big screen. With the varied success of theatre productions being translated to cinema, will Jersey Boys make audiences sing? 

Cinematic value:  3 stars

 (Gran Torino, Unforgiven) brings the beloved stage show, Jersey Boys to the big screen. Since his first directorial effort, Play Misty for Me, Eastwood has been able bring together music and film. Jersey Boys tells the story of iconic music group, The Four Seasons, and their lead singer, Frankie Valli (J). The narrative style tells how the band goes from teenagers in New Jersey who were influenced by organised crime, family and loyalty to friends to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees. The music gives the melody to the film, but the harmony comes from seeing the internal and external struggles of the group. As with many musical-biopics, this film portrays the true challenges of the music industry and maintaining relationships. The film has a narrative feel due to the breaking of the 'fourth wall', the method of speaking directly to the audience. This story telling vehicle allows for explanation of key plot points and the mindset of the characters. The music is merely the backdrop for the inevitable tension of moving forward with their music and staying true to the 'Jersey Way'. The understood loyalties of the neighbourhood and the far reaching implications of these commitments. The story takes twists and turns through the forty year journey of the quartet. The successes and the tragedies of the group strive to give a depth to the film. Eastwood's focus for this film remains in the timeless music of the Four Seasons and the story telling relays on a mythical style that supports the legend of the band. Trying to grab the magic of the stage production and translating it to film can create a challenge for any director. Eastwood manages to convey the music as the foundation for a mob-centred film. 

Clint Eastwood chose to go with stage actors instead of Hollywood heavy weights in the title roles.  (Tommy DeVito),  (Nick Massi),  (Bob Gaudio) and John Lloyd Young (Frankie Valli) make up the group and hold their own in the film, but show difficulty in maintaining the depth needed for this cinematic experience. One of the biggest challenges of a biopic is ageing the actors through the years. It is admittedly the weakest part of the film, the characters struggle to be convincing through all four decades of the story. To believe them as teenagers and senior citizens was a stretch that may have been more believable on stage, but was a struggle on the big screen. Also, to span such a lengthy time frame causes for big jumps in the time continuum and weakens the overall narrative. 

The big question has to be, what is the actual type of film that Jersey Boys is meant to be? Is it a musical, is it biopic or is it a unique combination of the two? It has been the challenge of many stage productions in recent release, some have been more successful that others. I think Jersey Boys falls somewhere in-between these two styles. It had great music, but the acting was not quite as convincing. Eastwood seems to convey that this is a mythical tale based on reality and it would have been more enjoyable if it did not try to take itself so seriously. Watching Christopher Walken, he seems to understand in his delivery that the story is not meant to be take such a serious tone, but the rest of the cast seem to be unaware of film style. 

The stereo-typical depiction of the lifestyle and language of the industry and the New Jersey ghetto is rough and makes this film inaccessible to younger viewers. This audience will miss out on the unique vocal stylings of Frankie Valli and the historical significance of The Four Seasons. Jersey Boys is an enjoyable film and the musical history was fascinating to experience, but the story between songs loses momentum through the film. 

Family value:  1.75 stars
The film portrays the lifestyle of the music industry and of organised crime on the streets of New Jersey. There is minimal violence, but the promiscuous life of the band and the language should cause any parents to pause in considering this film for children. 

Overall Rating:  2.5 stars

Leaving the cinema...
This was a great music history experience, being reminded of all the hits that came from this one group was worth the time. It was an entertaining film, but the film struggled to reach the high notes. Clint Eastwood seems to be limited with the script and was left directing a film about pop music that was short on depth. 

Bigger questions: 
1. How far should friendship loyalties go?  (Proverbs 13:20, John 15:12-15)
2. What responsibility do we have to caring for our family over personal desires? (1 Timothy 5:8, The Book of Titus)
3. What is the answer to the reason life seems to be a struggle? (
Jeremiah 29:11, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Written by Russell Matthews based on a five star rating system @ Russelling Reviews #russellingreviews