Several month ago, during a trip to London, I made a spontaneous decision to see Jersey Boys. Since that day I’ve been singing the show’s praises, blasting the original Broadway cast recording on car journeys and watching the tracks creep up my most played list on iTunes. When Clint Eastwood’s Jersey Boys film hit British cinemas last weekend I went along with high expectations and within the first few scenes I knew the big screen adaptation wasn’t for me.
Heavily inspired by the stage show, the narrative structure of the movie rotates from one Four Seasons member to the next, the actors often breaking the fourth wall to give insight to their character’s opinions or simply tugging the story along with several lines to help the transition between scenes. Although this technique is successful on stage, I personally felt that it did not translate well onto the screen and, much to my irritation, the narration continued throughout songs, overlapping vocals and drowning out sections of Four Seasons performances. Later, a song used as background music was layered in such a way that it was clearly audible whereas the necessary dialogue was increasingly difficult to hear. This difficulty was often enhanced due to the mumbling nature of some actors’ delivery of lines.
Without the restrictions of the stage, Eastwood attempts to explore the world of the Four Seasons in depth. There is greater insight to the illegal activities carried out by the band and there is a slight development of the relationship between Frankie Valli and his daughter Francine although this development does not contribute towards the overall impact of the final scenes. Without the time restrictions of theatre, the four leads gradually age throughout the movie, making the plot feel more realistic (even though Erich Bergen’s beard becomes slightly distracting – and not for the right reasons).
Performances throughout are incredibly strong. John Lloyd Young, who gained a Tony Award for his portrayal of Frankie Valli on Broadway, reprises his role with conviction; his delivery of the final monologue, featuring the line “But the four of us made that sound, our sound… when everything dropped away and all there was was the music… that was the best.” is stunning. Michael Lomenda is fantastic as Nick Massi meanwhile Vincent Piazza and Erich Bergen both give solid performances as Tommy DeVito and Bob Gaudio respectively. Renee Marino’s final scene as Mary is particularly moving.
Eastwood’s favourite Four Seasons hit is ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ and intriguingly this song is the only section of the soundtrack that disappoints. With an arrangement that strays somewhat from the Broadway cast recording, the brass sections of the orchestrations are somewhat unpleasant to listen to (perhaps this was due to the audio setting in the cinema theatre).
With a running time of over two hours, Jersey Boys feels incredibly long however the viewer is rewarded in the last few moments of the film when we see the youthful Four Seasons singing ‘Sherry’ under a street light followed by a rendition of ‘December ’63 (Oh What a Night)’ during which the entire cast are reunited to dance down the streets of New Jersey; a cheerful and upbeat number to put the fun back into Jersey Boys.