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Jersey Boys
Genre Music
 
Review:

Jersey Boys is a film adaptation of the Tony award-winning musical about Franki Valli and The Four Seasons. While The Four Seasons have a rich history of chart-topping singles, you'd be forgiven for thinking they were a Vivaldi tribute band. Their story may not be as well-known as that of The Beatles, but after the long-running and wildly popular musical inspired Clint Eastwood to commit it to celluloid, their legacy will live on...

It's not unlike any rock band story. Four guys get together, make some magic, sharpen their sound... work hard to get noticed by the right people and hit the big time before suffering some setbacks. Eastwood has directed a drama that encompasses the musical, rather than vice-versa. While the rags-to-riches story may be familiar, the toe-tapping music is what really stands out along with the characters occasionally breaking the fourth wall to give us the scoop.

He hasn't simply slapped it onto film, insisting that stage actors play the main parts, with Christopher Walken the only echo of Hollywood. These guys know the music well and perform at Broadway level, allowing the film to house and capture the feeling of the era. Their relative anonymity adds another dimension of realism to the drama, blending the innocence of That Thing You Do with a slice of Raging Bull intensity.

John Lloyd Young plays Franki Valli. Having won a Tony for his stage performance, you could say he's cultivated an appreciation and understanding of the rather naive Franki. While the star of the group, he's almost reluctant to stand out and take the glory without pulling his "brothers" into the limelight. It's an understated performance, one that has been quite effortlessly transferred to film with the help of actor's director, Clint Eastwood.

The big surprise is Vincent Piazza as Tommy DeVito. This role should unlock a number of golden doors for Piazza, who is utterly convincing as the charming, ill-mannered problem child of The Four Seasons. He works De Niro moxie and Broderick charm into a nuggety role that helps propel the conflict in Jersey Boys. Erich Bergen also deserves praise for his smooth and savvy take on Bob Gaudio, another naive character, who completes the foursome to the point of making Chris Cooper and the cast of American Pie seem like their understudies.

Jersey Boys is an understated biographical music drama. The dull colours, wardrobe, styling and music are reminiscent of Inside Llewyn Davis, transporting us to the '60s and keeping us up-to-speed with the age without becoming a distraction. It's not a loud, flashy movie and perhaps Eastwood didn't want to do the story a disservice, considering how indistinguishable and under wraps it's been all these years.

While it seems downplayed, this just enhances the King of Comedy flavour of the film. The music is performed beautifully without the characters simply breaking into song. The dramatic performances are noteworthy and contribute to the day-in-the-life stream of consciousness. While the formulaic rise-and-fall band story is refreshed by the gritty characters, who can't escape their small town values, with zippy music filling the soundtrack.

Jersey Boys is by no means a life-changing music drama, but Eastwood has delivered a fine and unpretentious rendition that doesn't romanticise or exploit. It's entertaining, enjoyable and has enough quality ingredients to keep you invested in the story and the plight of the flawed stars on their ascent.

The bottom line: Engrossing

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