Frankie is played by John Lloyd Young, an ambitious singer, who dreams of success with his bandmates Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) and Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda). Despite the abundance of talent – most notably in the frontman’s distinctive voice – they are lacking hit singles, but that all changes when Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) joins the group. As the boys rise to instant success, with number one hits such as Sherry Baby and Big Girls Don’t Cry – their ties to an old way of life and criminal masterminds such as Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken) begin to hold them back.
Jersey Boys – which originates from the triumphant stage production – excels in its quite remarkable tale, as a part-gangster flick, and part musical success story. However you can’t help but feel it’s been left in the wrong hands, as a tale you’d love to see in the left to the likes of Martin Scorsese or Roberto Benigni. That being said, it’s refreshing to see Eastwood enjoy himself a little, as some of his more recent films have been somewhat dour and stony-faced, with little room for frivolity. Yet this revels in the comedic elements, which is where the picture comes into its own. The more implicative, severe themes are integral, however, and Eastwood has certainly been influenced by Goodfellas in that department, not just when Joseph Russo’s Joe Pesci wryly says, “Funny how?” at one stage – but most notably in the narration to camera, which works as a definite nod to the Scorsese classic.
What is intriguing about the narration, is that all members of The Four Seasons – bar Frankie Valli – take part, which is a baffling decision, as it prevents our protagonist from forming a bond with the viewer, which the others are all able to do. This proves to be detrimental when Tommy and Nick’s screen time is significantly shortened, as Frankie is too apathetic and seemingly single-layered to carry the piece, as a character we have little emotional connection with. In fact, the moment Tommy leaves proceedings, the film loses its way dramatically. Not just from a narrative sense as we’re losing the antagonist of the piece, but the entire spirit and tone changes, making for a hugely tedious final act. What certainly doesn’t help the underwhelming finale, is that, similarly to Eastwood’s preceding endeavour J. Edgar, the makeup used to highlight the characters getting older comes under great scrutiny. When we cut to the 1990s, which is needless as it is, the entire band look like cheap, waxwork models on display at a museum in Great Yarmouth.
What does look good, however, is the impressive production design, as the film certainly looks the part. It sounds quite good, too, as the songs are brilliantly catchy and maintain the joyful spirit that runs through this piece. However, much to the annoyance of whoever is in your company (and those unfortunate enough to be sitting near you on public transport), you’ll be singing Big Girls Don’t Cry all the way home, in your very highest pitched, falsetto voice.