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‘Jersey Boys’ Review Roundup: Eastwood’s Musical Biopic Never Decides What To Be

'Jersey Boys' Review Roundup: Eastwood's Musical Biopic Never Decides What To Be

Clint Eastwood, 84, wasn’t necessarily anyone’s first thought when it came to a director for the film version of the Tony-winning 2005 Broadway hit “Jersey Boys.” But the director’s still on the A-list at Warner Bros. for his calm, economic, unpretentious, methodical filmmaking, flair for local color and good ear for music. Don’t forget Cannes prize-winner “Bird”–Eastwood’s a jazz pianist and composer.  And he, like everyone else, couldn’t resist the siren call of such pop hits as “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” and “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night).” “It’s just a lot of good songs,” he told Vanity Fair. “You go home humming a different one every night.” 

But it was a sign that the studio knew the 60s musical about Frankie Valli (the Broadway hit’s John Lloyd Young) wasn’t an awards contender when it opted not to wait for Oscar perennial Eastwood’s customary year-end slot, but instead premiered the film as the June 19 closing night of the Los Angeles Film Festival. 

Check out the initial reviews of Eastwood’s Four Seasons biopic below. The consensus: “Jersey Boys” has its ups and downs, but it never quite coheres into anything truly memorable. Back to you after we see the film at Thursday’s LAFF premiere. 

Opens: June 20.

In Variety, Andrew Barker writes that Eastwood’s “Jersey Boys” can’t quite make up its mind as to what it wants to be:

Though based on a smash-hit jukebox tuner that won four Tonys, Clint Eastwood’s adaptation of “Jersey Boys” can’t properly be described as a full-on musical. It does often hint at becoming one, just as it hints at becoming a “La Bamba”-esque early rock study, a cautionary tale about organized crime, and a sort of “Rashomon”-influenced take on the rise of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. But by the time it hits its first real Broadway-style production number over the closing credits, “Jersey Boys” doesn’t seem to have gotten any closer to deciding what kind of movie it wants to be. Embracing neither the fizzy energy of a Vegas-ready tuner, nor the grit of a warts-and-all biopic, the film nonetheless has its own peculiar charms, and should be able to capitalize on the source material’s enduring popularity for a respectable if modest B.O. haul.

The Hollywood Reporter praises Eastwood for delving into deeper emotional waters than the original stage version did:
Less tangible but more crucial is the director’s feel for the struggle, the long road that must often be traversed to achieve show business success, the price that must often be paid. Far more than in the stage show, which acknowledges the hardships but always cuts quickly back to fun stuff, there is stress on how being on the road away from mates and kids inevitably takes a heavy toll, and on the considerable cost of a determined commitment to success in the arts. While this is hardly banner news, its highlighting enriches the material emotionally and dramatically, providing a bracing dose of melancholy before the final musical surge. Like The Four Seasons, Eastwood persevered through ups and downs during the 1950s and into the early 1960s; that he’s simpatico with their personal and professional travails is evident and adds heft to the film.

The Wrap‘s Alonso Duralde called the film “nice, entertaining, just not all that good”:

Clint Eastwood directs the film adaptation of the global stage hit, and the movie fulfills the duties of a jukebox musical: it works in the hits, and it casts singers who make those hits sound virtually identical to the original versions. What the movie doesn’t do is answer the question, “Why did I just spend 134 minutes watching the Frankie Valli episode of ‘Behind the Music’?”

It doesn’t help that the rougher edges of the story are sanded down whenever possible: We’re informed immediately by group founder Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) that he and Frankie (John Lloyd Young) had mob ties, although it’s really Tommy who’s more connected, since he’s an errand boy for local made man Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken).

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