The movie starts with narration by Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) who voices the story of Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young), the lead singer of the band. Frankie, as he describes himself in the movie, is a hairdresser by day and fights crime by night (read: commits crime). Frankie (a Sinatra devotee) is an aspiring singer who gets his big break because of mob boss Gyp (Christopher Walken) but is advised by Gyp that he isn't ready and needs to train before he can go big. Meanwhile, Frankie spends more time with Tommy. Tommy has a band with his brother Nick Devito and Nick Massi and he gives Frankie an offer to join them. The newly formed band plays at local spots while occasionally partaking in petty crimes. Tommy, who is always on the hunt for members (due to jail visits and band reconfigurations), meets Bob Gaudio, who not only sings but plays and writes his own songs. This is when “The Four Lovers” is born, with Frankie, Tommy, Bob and Massi.
The story continues with how the band makes their way to huge record sales as they go through music labels, singing chorus to other singers and even funding the recording for their very first album. Helping them on their journey is Bob Crewe (Mike Doyle), who brings a fair amount of humor onscreen. What follows is a look into the lives of band members, their secrets, differences, vices and finally how they fall apart. To sum it up, Jersey Boys is the story of rise and fall of “Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons” and everything in between.
Jersey Boys is a film that shows a lot of potential but doesn’t live up to that potential. To start with my first complaint would be with the run time. At a little over 2 hours, there’s not much the movie has to offer to keep you glued to your seats for that long. It packs a punch with the formation and early days of the band, but after that, there’s really nothing to look forward to. Unlike the first half, the second half seems to be a compilation of “subtle” attempt at covering the lives of the band members. The impact and importance of the character’s actions seem missing from the latter half. It feels like a toned down version of a more dark, more impactful edition. So much so, that at times it’s tough to see the true nature of events; you can only guess what could have transpired. In one such case, the band is shown to be reaching heights of popularity but this has to be grasped from one short party scene! The ups and downs are all blended into a smooth curve where the highs and lows of the story never reach you, and you fail to connect with characters and their experiences.
So is Jersey Boys a sunken ship? Not really. The first and foremost thing to look forward to is the experience of reliving a tale from the era. The sets are beautifully done; the music is perfect and the characters effortlessly portrayed by a fresh cast (some retained from the original Broadway production). The execution of the movie fits the description of a musical but its not simply a chain of songs. There is a good balance between the story and music. Clint Eastwood, the director, makes use of technique called “Breaking the Fourth Wall”, where the actors can be seen narrating the story directly to the audience amidst their performance. Talking about the performances, John and Vincent are the front pair of horses pulling the wagon. John portrays the pivotal character of Frankie with finesse. But Vincent grabs your attention as the dark horse. He is totally charming on screen with a screen presence that cannot go unnoticed.
And you cannot talk about Jersey Boys without talking about its music. The movie retains most of the songs from the original score by the band. “Sherry”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like a Man” are hits that people have enjoyed over time and they definitely don’t grow old! For everyone who just got onboard, the songs are fresh and voices unique. The tunes will make you hum along and they add the much required zest to the experience.
On the whole, the movie offers a journey through the life of the band along with good music, but lacks the intensity of a gripping roller coaster ride that it should have been. So if you have been missing out on the conversation your friends have been having about the Broadway musical they just saw, it’s your time to prep up with a 2 hour movie (at least you’ll know what they are talking about).