It was inevitable that sooner rather than later, someone would attempt to turn Jersey Boys, the smash hit Broadway musical chronicling the rise of the last princes of do-wop, Franki Valli and the Four Seasons, into a movie. I’m not sure anyone thought that someone would be Clint Eastwood, in fact Jon Favreau was Warner Brothers’ first choice. But Eastwood has mellowed in his old age, and he’s done it nonetheless.
This is the director’s first film since 2011’s J. Edgar, so maybe this is something of a salve to his wounds suffered from the slings and arrows of the critics surrounding that movie. It’s also his first true musical as a director. He did, of course, costar in 1969’s Paint Your Wagon. (Paramount obviously hopes to capitalize on this fact. Two weeks ago they put it on YouTube to rent for $2.99.) He’s an accomplished jazz pianist and has composed all or part of quite a few of his own films’ scores. In 1988, Eastwood directed Bird to a gaggle of Golden Globe, BAFTA and other award nominations, as well as a Best Actor Award at Cannes for Forest Whitaker. So a movie version of a Broadway musical isn’t as far fetched for Eastwood as it might be for say, Quentin Tarantino. In any case, despite the fact that he’s showing no signs of “retiring”, the man is 83. Maybe directing a musical was on his “bucket-list”. (If it was, Clint, then there’s really no need to do A Star is Born, is there? Let Jay-Z buy his wife another director.)
The screenplay, which was written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice,who wrote the musical’s book, as well as John Logan (Hugo, Skyfall, Coriolanus, The Hurt Locker, and a lot of other really good films that don’t revolve around anyone singing), opens up the stage version to focus on not just the music, but the group’s hard-knock days on the streets of Jersey (where “girls comb their hair in rear-view mirrors and the boys try to look so hard”…wait that’s another Jersey icon) and their alleged association with the mafia.
Clint Eastwood’s big screen version of the Tony Award-winning musical tells the story of the four young men from the wrong side of the tracks in New Jersey who came together to form the iconic `60s rock group The Four Seasons. Their trials and triumphs are accompanied by the hit songs that influenced a generation, and are now being embraced by a new generation of fans through the stage musical.(c) Warner Bros.
John Lloyd Young, won a Tony playing Franki Valli on Broadway, but he wasn’t a shoe-in for the film. Although Eastwood didn’t want “Hollywood actors’ for the main roles, an extensive search went on before Young was finally cast. The studio had, at one point, attached Dominic Cooper, Paul Dano, and James Badge Dale, but the director won out and got the stage actors who had played the roles night after night.
Just my humble opinion, but the titular quartet doesn’t sound much like The Four Seasons. Young’s got a nasal quality to his falsetto that is too pronounced for my taste. That said, so what? We all know the songs and that’s the real reason anyone will be going out to the multiplex to watch Jersey Boys. I will see it just to sit in the dark with my popcorn, tap my toes and “silently” sing along. (I will do this even though I have always loathed one of the songs at the center of this movie. You try dealing with people singing “Sherry Baby” AT you in BAD falsetto, the first time they learn your name.) Ten bucks for a movie is a lot less than a ticket to even the cheapest dinner-theater version of the stage musical and if this first trailer is any indication, this movie will probably make money hand over fist. Since it is Clint Eastwood’s name over the title, it will, as usual, be considered an early Oscar contender, especially since the Academy’s notoriously “older” demographic will eat it with a spoon… that is if they can remember that far back come selection time. The June 20 release date is a bit like the early-bird special. Perhaps the WB, Eastwood’s longtime collaborator has determined that commerce, in this case, trumps art. They have Transcendence to pay for.
Jersey Boys, directed by Clint Eastwood with John Lloyd Young as Frankie Valli, Erich Bergen as Bob Gaudio, who wrote most of the group’s songs, Vincent Piazza as Tommy DeVito, Michael Lomenda as Nick Massi, and Christopher Walken as Gyp DeCarlo, opens June 20 in both the US and the UK. (Is it too much to ask for a shot of Walken dancing to “You’re Just to Good to Be True”?) Oh, and as usual, the director has worked in a part for one of his kids: Francesca Eastwood as “Waitress”.