I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect to like “Jersey Boys.” While I haven’t seen the Broadway musical that inspired the film, everything from the advertisements, trailers, etc. didn’t really resonate with me. It’s not that I don’t love Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. Their music has been something of an inspiration for me since I was a little kid. I also wasn’t thrilled to hear Clint Eastwood would be taking the reigns as the director, his pacing something I wouldn’t have linked to a jazzy musical. However, I have been wrong before and I was wrong again here. “Jersey Boys” is my biggest surprise so far of 2014. From the dazzling performances by John Lloyd Young, Erich Bergen, Michael Lomenda and Vincent Piazza (who you might recognize from “Boardwalk Empire”) to the beautiful cinematography, it’s a movie that doesn’t mind taking its time to tell a story of four troubled young men from the wrong side of the tracks in New Jersey. Their story is one of heartbreak and perseverance and it’s one that in the wrong hands could have come off as hokey and disingenuous. However, Eastwood is a talented filmmaker and he still has the chops to pull off a movie with a bigger scope and a complex script.
While breaking the fourth wall repeatedly reminds us this is being adapted from a stage show, it’s all the more impressive that it works on screen. The writing is excellent and the scoring of some of the most iconic music ever created is spot on. John Lloyd Young, who plays Frankie Valli in the film, gives the most memorable performance in my opinion. He nails the voice, the demeanor and I hope it’s a breakthrough for him as an actor. Christopher Walken, one of the few recognizable faces in a crowd of newbies, is so nuanced as Gyp DeCarlo and adds much needed depth to the story. DeCarlo, a mobster who constantly bails out the four singers, is an interesting character and Walken adds an important safety net. He’s always reliable and knows exactly how to play the right dramatic notes so the movie feels more authentic. This is a movie that has already struggled to find an audience, thanks in my opinion to a lazy marketing campaign. But the music is just as alive as it was in the 1960s. Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons have an important story to tell, one that’s in the good and steady hands of Clint Eastwood. FULL PRICE.