IT’S NOT A particularly good script, the acting is generally plodding and the story doesn’t cohere around anything resembling a core thematic idea, BUT… it’s got the elevating, exciting, joyous music of Stephen Castelluccio, aka, Franky Valli and the Four Seasons. For that one can forgive a lot; and because of that, the many shortcomings of Clint Eastwood’s “Jersey Boys” seem largely irrelevant in this foot-tapping, smile-inducing, got-to-get the record, movie.
Eastwood’s “Jersey Boys” is the uber New Jersey movie, with New Joisey hoodlum types cruising around in large open air Studebakers wearing Brando-esque wife-beater shirts, smoking non-stop and drifting in and out of petty crime. Even today, Jersey still longs to be back in ’66, when they could claim Sinatra, Valli and sundry legendary Mafiosi. John Lloyd Young, clearly chosen for his pitch-perfect Valli-esque voice and close resemblance to the singer, is no great shakes as an actor. With him, the writers’ flat characterizations seem even flatter. No matter, he’s more or less convincing enough to fit in to this troupe of wannabe wise guys looking for a way out of this wrong side of Jersey’s tracks but ever loyal to underworld king-pin Gyp DeCarlo (the ever reliable Christopher Walken).
The track that leads them out was of course “Sherry” back in 1962. After that, the great song-writing duo of Bob Crewe (Mike Doyle) and Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) along with Valli’s fabulous falsetto and dynamic stage presence produced hit after hit: “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, “Walk Like a Man”, “Rag Doll”, “December 1963”, “Can’t Take My Eyes off You” and “My Eyes Adored You”. Eastwood, himself no mean musician, lets the music do the talking.
As the Four Lovers morph into the Four Seasons; as group intimacy leads to vexations and splits; as Valli seeks to repay the onerous debts of his fellow band member and one time mentor, Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), Eastwood stresses that the one element that helps them transcend and escape the often sordid reality of their lives was the music, If there is an unifying theme, it’s the power of music to heal…to “soothe the savage beast”
Clint sticks with his tried and trusted team of craftsmen: Tom Stern as cinematographer (who also worked with him on “J.Edgar”, “Invictus”, “Gran Torino” etc), Joel Cox as editor, Pat Sullivan Jr as Art Director etc. This combination, led by Eastwood, no doubt account for that particular look and feel of all his movies: solid, studied but not fussy, uncomplicated, somehow quintessentially American.
This is no “Mystic River”, but hell, after 38 movies, who’s counting.