PLOT: The story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, based on the Broadway musical of the same name.
WHO'S IT FOR? Eastwood fans to be disappointed, or music fans to be bored.
In my interview with Paul Haggis for his recently-released film Third Person, the former Oscar-friendly screenwriter brought something to my attention about his working relationship with Clint Eastwood, which I could have guessed, but didn't know: with Haggis' scripts like Flags of Our Fathers, Eastwood didn't ask for any rewrites, and began shooting with a first draft. It explained so much, especially when I finally caught up with Jersey Boys. Eastwood's stories are as strong as his scripts, his directorial ability to really influence a project as dusty in quality as the idea of getting perfect takes. It explains why Unforgiven is so great, because it's a screenwriter's tale, which is then given a film vision. This also explains why Jersey Boys is so bad, because even when adapting a show that must be more linear than it is here, Eastwood acceptance of first draft quality gets into his own storytelling.
Instead of popping like the songs of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Jersey Boys is defined by this unnecessary glum atmosphere that shows the saccharine aspects of Eastwood at his worst. It's not just the emotion that's dour, but the attitude behind the filmmaking. The story is barely stitched together, and the progressive arc is doomed by a random, extended flashback that takes the characters to do some backtracking. There are moments in which Jersey Boys doesn't just present sham character portrayals, but confuses the easiest ideas of location. There's one moment where I thought out loud, "What state are we even in?"
Eastwood doesn't feel the need to provide a clear picture within his film, only images. The characters are affected by this aspect as well, their backgrounds and motivations unclear. The idea of Frankie as a good or bad father is completely lost, which undermines the impact of its drama for the rest of the film. There is one stride that Jersey Boys does well, and it involves Frankie taking on a friend's massive debt just because. It's the one interesting passage of this movie, regardless of the numerous musical sequences that go on and on, and often feature unfortunate voiceover (voiceover proven to be a difficult aspect for this film to ever wrap itself around).
Jersey Boys is like an unintentional parody of the Eastwood aesthetic in some aspects. His work with recurring cinematographer Tom Stern provides a de-saturated version of a colorful era. The images within an Eastwood film aren't just dark, they are dying, for little reason at all. A graying color palette continues this effect as well, with white skin looking deathly pale, especially in sunlight. It's hard to watch a Frankie Valli movie when its characters look like they're on the brink of leprosy.
More than his brief TV cameo, Eastwood certainly looms over Jersey Boys. As unexpected as the film may be for a director who expresses a love for music with jazz than pop, the film becomes pure Eastwood for the bad reasons. It is an Eastwoodian construction of the faults in his filmmaking, and the attitude that leads to clear misfires such as this film.
FINAL SCORE: 2/10