Rental Corner: “Jersey Boys” and its singing can’t save uneven execution
“Jersey Boys” is one movie musical that I was a tad hyped. But upon its release, it was eaten by the hungry jaws of critics and swept under the rub among the other musical flops like “Rock of Ages” or “Sargent Pepper’s Lonley Hearts Club Band.” Still, I pressed on thinking that maybe it was a case where the execution and elements going into it would work. To describe the end result is something like Mad Libs. The director will be Clint Eastwood. Ok, he’s done good movies before like Million Dollar Baby so maybe his gritty direction might add something. The style is gritty biography. Strange seeing the source is based from a typical Broadway show but maybe getting that realistic tone. And the musical numbers are treated like Ray where the numbers are seeing being performed or recorded than treated like flashy productions with the exception of the finale for the end credits. Ummm…what kind of movie am I watching again? If a movie doesn’t know what aspect to take itself in, you can tell there is trouble.
Much like the stage musical, it centers on the musical group “The Four Seasons” and their rise to stardom. But along the way, the movie shows us the turmoils and problems they get into that is the usual way of how bands break up. One guy wants to quit for family reasons, one has creative differences with his lyrical work and one has disagreements despite owing a huge debt of money and acts like he is the leader when he is not. Its the basic story of how a group of people get together for a musical group and split. And I’m aware that is the story of “The Four Seasons,” but its executed in a way that has not much flare and feels dull. Its like you have heard this story before and there’s not next to no point in telling it.
Its a shame because the way “Jersey Boys” is executed feels like two movies in one. One side is the autobiographical aspect as we see the band members and what they go through. Again, the Broadway show incorporated this into the story but it feels lost here. There are moments when a character will have a devastating moment like losing a family member or even going against the group. The emotion is there but we don’t feel it because its told on auto pilot. An example is when something terrible happens to Frankie Valli’s daughter. With little focus on this character, we get the reaction but there’s build up to her moment. Its a tragic scene but the movie delvers this without any proper execution. It sort of happens and that’s it.
Even Clint Eastwood’s direction shows his style is just not right for movie musicals. 90 percent of the time its filmed with wide shots and barley a close-up or an establishing shot. Its like this movie was filmed from a distance without any care into thinking how a song sequence should be handled or showing emotion in a character. When a song plays in a movie musical, we get to see the expression of the character and more because there is no limit. This is not a stage show. We can see faces and other things. Clint never takes that opportunity and even stranger is the color palette being muted and have less saturation. The color is so toned down its like watching a bright color painting being watered down to a dull state. Never have I seen a movie musical that feels dull in execution and color.
Even some of the choices to tell this story are strange like having one of the band members tell it from their point of view. Ok, that I can see working in maybe a flashback way but here, they start with one of them talking to the viewers what is going on and what will happen. I would have been ok with this but then another band member would take up telling the story and then another and another to the point there’s no focus. Perhaps this worked better in the stage show but seeing this is a film with a budget, there’s no need for it. This could have been again a flashback within or even narration. Even odd choices like having Christopher Walken in a minor role feels weird. To Walken’s credit, he tries but with such a great actor on deck, its a shame to see he’s not giving much to work with.
The only good thing I can think of that is positive are the song numbers. In fact, the soundtrack to this movie is more worth your time than ironically the movie itself. When they sing a tune or play a note, that’s when I got engaged because of how good it was. The only nitpick I have is the tempo and pitch being sped up a bit but the singing was really good. Which is a shame because it doesn’t save the movie. “Jersey Boys” could have been anything but with these elements in play, it doesn’t come to life aside from when they sing. If this movie played more like Dreamgirls by mixing the autobiographical elements in a musical manner, there would be something salvageable. But it really doesn’t know if it wants to be a movie musical or just tell the true lives of the Four Seasons. Like I said, when your movie has songs worth listening to more than seeing them in the movie itself, its best to get the soundtrack and skip buying the film altogether.
Posted on December 18, 2014, in Rental Corner and tagged 1960s, Christopher Walken, Clint Eastwood, Frankie Valli, Jersey Boys, Movie Musical, music groups, The Four Seasons. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.