Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Movie Review: Big Girls Don't Cry, But 'Jersey Boys' Do

Jersey Boys (2014, directed by Clint Eastwood. USA, Color, 134 minutes.) "Jersey Boys" isn't the typical Clint Eastwood film, or is it? Sure, no one would expect the Man With no Name who has been the epitome of masculinity to adapt a Tony Award-winning musical for the screen, but here it is, draped with all of that obnoxious chiaroscuro lighting that is typical of Eastwood's films.

The jukebox story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons won four Tonys, including best musical, when it premiered on Broadway in 2005, and, to me, is another cautionary tale of the politics and frustrations of the '60s music scene.

Young Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young reprising his Tony-winning role) is a babyfaced teenager from a Newark, New Jersey suburb who gets caught up in the bad boy Tommy DeVito and his musical group. Through mob connections and a brilliant songwriter, the boys from Jersey eventually become a staple of that generation's pop music. Eventually that all crumbles as the group falls apart when a mountain of debt, and tears, falls into their laps.

Maybe this was a better show to see on the stage, but there was something about this film that worked more as a comedy/drama and less as a high-energy musical. There were some performance scenes where your toe was tapping and  the audience would clap afterward, but that was few and far between. Previous Broadway shows adapted for the screen, like "Chicago" and "Dreamgirls", could do both, especially the former.

This brings me back to Eastwood. For a man who never directed a real musical before it shows. The choreography was pretty basic and repetitive, the sound mix he approved on the final cut was crazily uneven and he added an unnecessary encore performance as the credits rolled. Really? Do people even do a final medley as the credits go at the end? Without the music, it's a well-paced and interesting drama, but if the movie is about the music, don't make it seem like an extra lingering in the background.

Rating: C

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