Film Review: Jersey Boys (2014)

“Jersey Boys” is the motion picture version of the Tony winning play starring three of the four members of the Broadway version.  This film got a mediocre review in USA today from critic Claudia Puig, AGE TWENTY-FIVE who lives in Walla Walla, Washington. Culturally about as far from New Jersey as it’s possible to get.  Claudia wasn’t a gleam in her daddy’s eye when all this took place at the turn of the 60’s decade. Her daddy was probably kicking the sides of his playpen during all of it too so it’s quite possible she’s out of her range.

I think critics who have never been there for a social phenomenon should leave it alone. George F. Will “reviewed” the death of Jim Morrison for Time in 1971. Essentially, he said he had no idea what the fuss was about, and clearly he didn’t because he was alive then but isolated from any of the culture. He was like a Bornean headhunter reviewing a Boeing 747.

I was there for all of it in 1962 and I play in a musical group that came together by the same Brownian motion as Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons. I listened to them live playing all their songs as they became symbolic of a generation. I can render you a very insightful picture of the temper of those times and the desultory factors that make a successful musical group. So can Clint Eastwood.

Eastwood’s genius is portraying details and the meticulously nuanced flow of events.  Singing the songs in their own voice, each of the Four Seasons tell various aspects of the story, sometimes stepping out of context to speak to the audience. Unlike what “Ray”(2004) and “Walk the Line” (2005) did for Ray Charles and Johnny Cash, Jersey Boys isn’t so much about the personalities but the ingredients that combine in a random and illogical manner to create magic.  The birth of a “sound” greater than the sum of its parts.

Eastwood takes his time meticulously building the story, ignoring the usual Hollywood imagery and formula as he did in “Flags of our fathers” and “Letters from Iwo Jima” (both 2006).  At first the audience needs to be dragged into the unfolding story that starts out more like an old cops & robbers film, but as the story proceeds, they witness emerging genius. Some critics complain the film is too long. I say it takes exactly two hours and fourteen minutes to build the nuances of the story.

John Lloyd Young gives an outstanding performance as Frankie Valli, not just with vocals but also with bringing to life the youthful ambiance of the early years, the inevitable descent into excess, and the emotionally battered period that followed. The rest of the cast deliver solid performances, especially Vincent Piazza as Tommy and as always, Chris Walken as their Godfather.

Best part:  The aging group appears in New York City in 1990 to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. A quietly beautiful scene.

Not so great part:  Californian Eastwood directs in just a little too laid back fashion, missing some opportunities to allow the characters to leap out of the screen.

Most if not all of the critics that give this film so-so review don’t understand the culture and especially don’t understand what Eastwood is trying to do here. Yes, if judged by Hollywood Spectacular Epic benchmarks the film fails. This film was clearly not written by Joe Eszterhas (Showgirls: (1995).

Accordingly, I strenuously disagree with some of the mediocre reviews of this film by critics who analyze it using benchmarks that don’t work. Yes, this is a bit of a long film but the length is needed and necessary to build characters the audience believes in and can absorb. This film builds a story line full of carefully constructed nuances that work as builds toward enchantment. If accepted for what it is, this film is a masterpiece.

I give it four and a half of five falsettos. Must See.




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