What incredible talents The Four Seasons were. Assets to art and fantastic musicians that had a superb variety of crowd-pleasing classics and culturally and tonally aware B-Sides that could steal the show from their most notable tracks. A weedy group of characters form a band that would break the charts and beat out a whole genre of music. They are formidable, skilled and marvellous, no doubts about that. Clint Eastwood knows that too, and it is why his adaptation of Jersey Boys is so frustrating. His heart is in the right place, but his head is running on empty. Ideas that do not drag out the display of camaraderie for this group of singers and musicians, a sad shame since this is probably the greatest outing of Frankie Valley and the Four Seasons we’ll ever see on the big screen.
Brotherly love and their friendship between the quartet is founded rather generically. Smoking in the green rooms after gigs, pulling antics and ladies once the concert has ended, they live the freewheeling life of every rockstar. The groups singing is matched only by their brushes with the law. Bank heists gone awry, little cons here or there to keep the wheels of music moving. Eastwood never connects the two together all that well. These events may be independent of one another but they should certainly be complementing one another. Early scenes of young, desperate boys stealing bank safes should be in contrast with the later claims to success and spiral out of popularity, but the two feel like completely different tales without the bridge in-between to connect them.
Never hitting the high notes, Jersey Boys stammers and stutters through a biopic that feels explosive and experimental. But the issue with explosive filmmaking is that an audience then has to pick up the pieces. Jersey Boys is a bomb site. Its narrative is strewn all over the place. Fourth-wall breaks so characters can talk to the camera about nothing of exceptional interest are knitted into inevitable moments of the biopic formula. Chirpy characters get to grips with their life on the screen, whittling their time away talking to the camera, painting Christopher Walken’s face with shaving cream or finding the time to winkle out references to The Sopranos since a few familiar faces show up. Mobster heavy, despite there being few links to organised crime.
Even that moment of mobster dealings is brief and brushed aside. Maybe it did have a profound and distinct impact on the Four Seasons, but the bulk of their interactions with the community that skyrocket their careers is founded with a generality unlike Eastwood. He usually has time to document some specific brilliance, but Jersey Boys feels deflated. It does not help that John Lloyd Young cannot carry a tune, nor can he carry this film with his fine performance. Had it not been for his antics around trying to sing, then perhaps Jersey Boys would have been a tad better. But its first third of bank robberies and disastrous crashes is a strange way to introduce an audience to the men that defined a small pocket of musical history. It is not a good one either.