Nelson Mandela, in his first term as President of South Africa, initiates a unique venture to unite the Apartheid-torn land: enlist the national rugby team on a mission to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
This movie is a musical biography of the Four Seasons, the rise, the tough times and personal clashes, and the ultimate triumph of a group of friends whose music became symbolic of a generation. Far from a mere tribute concert (though it does include numbers from the popular Four Seasons songbook), this movie gets to the heart of the relationships at the center of the group, with a special focus on frontman Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young), the small kid with the big falsetto. In addition to following the quartet's coming-of-age as performers, the core of this movie is how an allegiance to a code of honor learned in the streets of their native New Jersey got them through a multitude of challenges: gambling debts, Mafia threats, and family disasters. This movie is a glimpse at the people behind a sound that has managed to endure for over four decades in the hearts of the public.Written by
"Four guys under a street lamp, when it was all still ahead of us, the first time we made that sound — our sound." Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young)
It's next to impossible to compare director Clint Eastwood's entertaining Jersey Boys with the popular juke-box stage hit without feeling that the live production is superior. It could be using some of the stage cast, including the excellent John Lloyd Young as Frankie, highlights the electricity of physical presence over the celluloid mimicry. Or maybe because it seemed like a fuller musical on stage, with complete songs and less family squabbling. Or maybe because Christopher Walken's mobster, Gyp DeCarlo, is underplayed.
But more to the point, this film is a story of rags to riches with the speed bumps large and disorientations many despite the transcendence of the music (Sherry Baby and Walk Like a Man are only two of the memorable hits by this unusually gifted group). Eastwood spends considerable opening capital on the home life of the Jersey boys with the overdone Sopranos accent and run-ins with local cops to the exclusion of the actual development of their famous songs.
With the emergence of the Four Seasons, the musical becomes vibrant. Eastwood deftly weaves the songs into the narrative without bringing attention to just the songs. Somehow after the death of Valli's beloved but troubled daughter, My Eyes Adored You fits the distancing that fame brought to the relationship and the sadness of the loss. As Frankie moves into performances without his original group in order to pay off mob debt for his partner, Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), the songs still evidence the greatness of the falsetto and the humanity of the singer.
Eastwood builds the sentiment into the narrative arc, beginning roughly in the hood and ending sweetly at the Hall of Fame, where the reunion reminds us of their unique charm even though they are old but not out of tune. Jersey Boys may not be the fullest musical imaginable with its middlin' family life sequences, but when it breaks into song with tunes accurately fitting the times, the film becomes a testimony to Clint Eastwood's ability in any genre and the glorious sound of real humans trying to balance audience, mob, and songs.
Maybe it's in the New Jersey water—someone ought to bottle it; otherwise never again will we enjoy the high-pitched romance of local boys making great music. A musical about that rarity has its challenge built into a narrative that must compete with the almost supernatural expression of music:
"After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music." Aldous Huxley
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