What to Expect
For Clint Eastwood to have taken on the very delicate musical genre into his own hands looked like a fairly big risk, according to the writer of this review. But oh well, who knows, really? Because as a director, Eastwood has helmed in quite a few dynamic genres, most of them successes, which actually makes this another Eastwood movie to expect quite a bit from. With otherwise nothing to superficially expect, here are three top reasons one would want to go watch the movie anyway:
- Clint Eastwood has given the viewers enough stunners (in the forms of Million Dollar Baby, Changeling and Gran Torino) for them to expect a lot from this one;
- Besides featuring interesting cast additions like Vincent Piazza and Christopher Walken, the trailer boasts of a fairly woven narrative structure for one to have a piqued curiosity in the film; and
- The music of Four Seasons has been made immortal not just through their ascending popularity in real life, but also – later – through the 2005 Broadway musical Jersey Boys (incidentally also the source material for the film)
Now this movie would be quite cool for those revisiting the era, the musical group and the stage musical. However, for those who are only newly inducted into this world, is it effective? That would probably be an effective question for me to have been answered.
What’s it About?
Of course, that was never the question for Francesco Castelluccio (John Lloyd Young). The question that troubles him is how to find an out from the neighbourhood he’s in. Eventually, with the help of Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), he inches his way upward, and eventually forms a group called The Four Lovers. Eventually, the group is renamed The Four Seasons and reaches heights of popularity. Cracks, however, begin to show, and the group is made to face some inner demons of their own.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Now, let’s be frank here. The movie boasts of an interesting starcast, of which at least three of the band members reprise their roles from Eastwood’s source, the Broadway musical itself. This writer is admittedly a fan of the breaking-the-fourth-wall monologues, of which there is a smart interweaving throughout the film with different narrators having different vantage points of situations they’re in. Although, one tends to suspect this might have been a major feature in the musical itself. Eastwood’s direction is consistent and focused through the film, where he manages to bring out a very different world and plate it through the viewer. It is atmospherically correct and prepares to allow people to transport themselves to the world the movie sets itself up in. The major problem? The screenplay by co-writers Marshal Brickman and stage-writer Rick Elice has moments of major exhilaration, but cannot seem to decide the pace or the progression of the film. For those who might know the musical and how it progresses, there might be some respite. For the ones who don’t, however, there may be definite complaints of pace and predictability (the rise-fall-rise pattern). And although the dramatisation may have been a deliberate addition (possibly for purposes of homage and genre-friendliness), it looks very clunky in places.
Music most definitely seems to be one of the saviours of the film. Recreations of popular numbers by the group come alive through the amazing recreations and some of Young’s most energetic singing tributes. The tracks featured in the film will make the viewer want to look back through the originals and hear them too. Production design accurately gives out the feel of the late sixties and early seventies in the film. The glitz and glamor of showbiz is partially effective, and given more of a stand through the exquisite cinematography of the movie. The edit in itself isn’t too bad. It, however, feels slightly broken in between scenes, with regards to continuity.
To Perform or Not to Perform
The other saviours of the movie most definitely have to be the confident performers. From Les Miserables to the Broadway version of the film, John Lloyd Young has a pretty interesting list of stage performances to his repertoire. And as he comes to reprise his role as Frankie Valli in the film, he doesn’t look the least bit uncomfortable or out of place. He definitely knows the role inside out – and it helps. Ditto for Erich Bergen and Michael Lomenda. While Erich Bergen is efficient and pleasing in what he does in the film, it’s Michael Lomenda who goes out of his character to play Nick Massi, which works quite well. Vincent Piazza as Tommy DeVito has a very dynamic character and he weaves his way well around it. Christopher Walken in his short role is good fun. And so is Mike Doyle as Bob Crewe. Renee Marino plays Frankie’s passionate, alcoholic wife Mary very, very well. Others are great.
Overall, the movie boasts of great musical numbers and strong performances, but suffers from a faulty, inconsistent script which can’t really help the direction in any way, unfortunately. This could as well be a major disappointment for Eastwood’s career as a director, because his previous films over the past few years have been absolute gems, proving this to be a relatively major stumble. Now, that isn’t to say that the movie isn’t watchable; oh it most definitely is. One can definitely see the amount of respectable hard work that has been devoted to the film, which, apart from the fantastic performances, music and attempted consistency in direction, make the viewer reach the end without any major hissy fits. It’s only fair, however, that the viewer expects a lot more from a film with a director of such stature.
Star Rating: 2.5 / 5