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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Jersey Boys (2014)

A young Italian kid (38 year old John Lloyd Young recreating his stage role) works as a hairdresser by day while trying to spark a music career at night. He's taken under the wing of a petty hustler (Vincent Piazza) and together they form a musical group that eventually becomes The Four Seasons fronted by Frankie Valli. D.O.A.! This may well be the most stillborn musical biography since Keven Spacey's heinous BEYOND THE SEA. As a genre, there's not a whole lot one can do with the cliche ridden (and all the cliches are here) rags to riches to heartache to triumph scenarios inherent in the genre. The success of these musical autobiographies are wholly dependent on the songs and central performance that elevates the hackneyed material: Diana Ross in LADY SINGS THE BLUES, Barbra Streisand in FUNNY GIRL, Jamie Foxx in RAY, Joaquin Phoenix in WALK THE LINE or Marion Cotillard in LA VIE EN ROSE, for example. There's no such central performance here and while I'm not a Four Seasons fan, their songs get short shrift here. The director Clint Eastwood doesn't seem interested in a musical so unlike the stage musical, the songs seem like an afterthought. So what are we left with? A string of cliches with Italian "goomba" seasoning. There is one production number where you suddenly feel you're in a real musical but Eastwood places it under the end credits! What was he thinking? With Christopher Walken, Michael Lomenda, Billy Gardell and in the film's three best performances: Erich Bergen as Bob Gaudio, Mike Doyle as Bob Crewe and Renee Marino as Valli's wife.

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