Stage-to-screen adaptations have become a common stomping ground for filmmakers these days, and the latest is Jersey Boys, reimagined on the silver screen by Hollywood heavyweight, Clint Eastwood.
The film tells the story of Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young), a gifted singer with a distinctive voice, growing up on on the unforgiving streets of New Jersey, with ties to criminal masterminds such as Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken). However alongside his two closest friends Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) and Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda), the trio see music as a route away from the harsh realities of life. However when the talented songwriter Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) joins the group and they rise to stardom, such realities start to catch up with them.
The film begins well, with a jocular tone that’s infectious, as you’re immersed into 1950s America with a quite remarkable production design. However as the film progresses, the more it loses its way, and by the end it becomes something of a farce – with a final act that is enough to turn you off music for good! However, a strong narrative ensures this film is not a complete disaster, with a steady blend between a typical musical biopic and a conventional gangster flick of the Goodfellas mould – a sentiment played up to by Eastwood. This is particularly evident in how our characters narrate to camera, however the star of the show, Frankie Valli himself, seems to be the only character who isn’t given the opportunity to do so.
This is part of why the film doesn’t work, as we’re devoid of any emotional attachment to the role, unable to get inside his head and explore the more intimate aspects of his life. Such themes should be explored in biopics of this nature, however when you can see Valli’s name pop up in the closing credits as executive producer, it all starts to make a lot more sense.