If you want to go see Jersey Boys because you’re looking to hear the great music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, go see this movie. If you’re looking for the somewhat cliché at this point life story of a musician’s life story (honestly you’ve seen one of these movies you’ve seen them all) you won’t be disappointed. If you expected to see a really great film directed by Clint Eastwood, you might leave the theater disappointed.
The movie is fairly good at a surface. You have an admirable central character, Frankie Valli, who not only achieves success from humble beginnings but always looks out for his friends. You have just great music. You have some well-written, very clever and witty dialogue. The plot gets a little slow at times (especially the first 45 minutes or so) but you’ll forgive that fault as it is a fictionalized version of a real story and we expect that to have a little more back story. I found having the different parts of the story being narrated by a different member of the Four Seasons particularly clever (if not a big jarring in having so many breaks of the 4th wall). John Lloyd Young does an excellent job singing in the style of the real Frankie Valli, and he does equally good job of making you feel for Frankie Valli as he weathers numerous personal tragedies.
If you’re just going for entertainment and to relive some of the best music of its era, you will not be disappointed.
However, if you’ve been reading my reviews for any length of time you know at this point I want more. I’ve seen more than enough movies that are just entertaining and I want some depth to my films. And while there is some depth and a message in this film, it’s the wrong message. Specifically in the form of the central part of Valli’s personal trials. His long time “friend” Tommy DeVito, who founded and managed what would become The Four Seasons in the early days of the group, got in bad with loan sharks. By “bad” I mean to the tune of $150,000…after already stealing a half a million from the group (that’s about $5.5 million total in 2014 dollars). And for some reason, out of loyalty? friendship? Valli agrees that he will work off his friend’s debt rather than let him become victim to typical loan shark methods of collection. This is bad enough, but the fact that DeVito is portrayed as arrogant to the point of never admitting his fault in the matter or ever apologizing to or thanking Valli for getting him out of the hole he had dug for himself (if the real Tommy DeVito is even half the asshole he was portrayed to be in the film, then it would have been more than ethical to let the loan sharks have him). Valli then embarks on years upon years of shows to pay the debt off. I personally have a problem with this, standing up for someone who keeps stabbing you in the back isn’t friendship, it’s an abusive relationship. The fact that this is portrayed as being a factor in the destruction of Valli’s relationship with his family only exacerbates how wrong this is at some levels. And the movie doesn’t quite know how to deal with this, half the time it seems to treat Valli’s actions as a virtue (which they aren’t) and half the time (usually through the narration of the group’s song writer Bob Gaudio). It’s implied that this is the ethics of Jersey…but if that’s the case then Jersey is an even worse place than its corrupt and idiotic governor would suggest.
Further, this was not Clint Eastwood’s best directing. He really phoned this in. I saw nothing of the man who directed the human drama of Gran Torino or Million Dollar Baby, nor the depth of Hereafter. This is more the work of the man who directed Play Misty For Me. The movie is well directed, but it’s at level of good direction from a C level director, not the A level director that Eastwood has repeatedly proven himself to be. I find no fault with anything he did, but there was no greatness anywhere either.
Again if you just want a decent docudrama with a good soundtrack, you’ll love this film. If you feel, like me, that I already own all the music I was looking for more than just a trip down my iTunes playlist, the movie comes up short.
I give it 3.5 out of 5.