According to The Telegraph it is “a film so grey and musty, it should probably be inspected on public health grounds for mildew.…. ….I entered with low expectations….and came out thinking “ some nice moments but Clint Eastwood rushed the film too much and missed/sacrificed the group's magic”
On the positive side I had to agree with The Independent’s assessment…..”One of its pleasures is its recreation of post-war America. It is shot in widescreen. The early scenes are in desaturated colours which give the sense that we really are back in the 1950s…..There are quiffs, cars with fins, and scenes set in bowling alleys but the film never lapses into Grease-like caricature. The device of having characters talk direct to camera, commentating on events in which they themselves are participating, isn’t as jarring as might have been imagined. As in House Of Cards (in which Kevin Spacey’s rogue politician tips the audience the wink) we quickly become accustomed to this style of storytelling.” (it happens in every episode of ‘Modern Family’)
But I did realize that this may not be enough to hold the attention or create the excitement of 1960s music for a big audience. As The Guardian says…”this version of the Four Seasons story appears to take place in a vacuum; for all the period detail (good to see a solid '56 Dodge Coronet in the street scenes alongside the more camera-friendly car cliches), there's scant sense of the pop world outside the boys' own four-part bubble.”. This is to many fans I am sure entirely unfair. Given the story context and length it would not be possible to do justice to the 1960s music scene. The theatre and audience appearances are authentic and the studio scenes are well matched to photos we have of Bob Crewe and the group in the studio.(even to Bob Gaudio's 1967 goatee- although he never had hair that long till the 70s.)But some of the key stage show effects are sadly missed.(The 'Dawn' stage climax before the intermission for example)
Some critics have panned the film and anticipating seeing it I was asking….”what should I expect ?”……a story of four guys trying to succeed as the 50s crossed over into a changing 60s?….or a portrayal of the music scene of those early years of the decade?…….well, Clint Eastwood went for the former …..but seeing that I recognized missing aspects of the 60s music making that no-one has tackled. The NYC music scene is becoming increasingly difficult to capture and the unique style, creativity and personality of those times......but at least Bob Crewe's portrayal was visually accurate and his dynamic production style was partly achieved...and they included his infamous Dakota Building parties....wonderful stuff. Perhaps the film falls between two stools achieving neither an effective piece of entertainment or a portrayal of musical development. But I didn't like the lack of credit 'musically' to Bob Crewe......he only did the lyrics.....and no production credit?. Same old problem with The Partnership......lack of credit to the teamwork. Others seem to agree. Eddie Rambeau who worked with producer Bob Crewe and wrote for the group had a valid perspective….”having lived through it myself, although the film will appear entertaining to most, it really wasn't that factual”..It is also clear from information received that Bob Crewe's family will not be too thrilled with the film. They and we, I am sure, recognise that Crewe “ was the real brains behind the success of The 4 Seasons”. Eddie, I and many others believe Bob was the driving force behind their career even if Gaudio's music was an integral part of the success. Jersey Boys doesn't capture this but the movie goes further than the stage show. Crewe was far from perfect but he did teach them their craft and this doesn't come over enough.
The Independent review also focuses on how the storyline is too predictable…....” Eastwood can’t escape the clichéd nature of films about bands. Inevitably, there are the years of struggle. Then comes the giddy period of early fame and success. Next follow the recriminations, broken marriages and unpaid tax bills. It’s at this point that the band splits up and its members tell each other they won’t perform together until hell freezes over. Then, in the final reel, the band is bound to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame amid scenes of semi-sincere reconciliation. You can’t blame the screenwriters for following a hackneyed old formula. This is simply the way that it always seems to happen.”
It is easy to agree that…..”The film is structured a little untidily. There aren’t climactic moments”….something the show never suffers.
The film does have a major problem according to The Telegraph…”The problem is immediately and heartbreakingly apparent. Rather than embracing the jangling song-and-dance numbers that made the live version box-office catnip, Eastwood sheepishly tidies them into the background, treating the project instead like a standard music-industry biopic” And unlike the show, the MUSIC loses out…”On screen, they (the songs) feel a tad flat – not something you could ever say about the records (look at the electrifying use Philip Kaufman made of them in The Wanderers).” …says The Guardian…..”Instead, it’s the band’s fantastically tedious internal squabbles that the film obsesses over”. “This is Eastwood’s major mis-judgement.” ….observes The Telegraph. Not an over-whelming approval from the UK quality press.
But we know it is a false storyline and didn’t happen(we accepted this in the stage show back in 2005)……..in many ways this 'inaccuracy' is where it works for its target audience. Whilst the early portrayal of a struggling band is backed up by some fact and research ….the later story line is some facts and fictions strung together in an out of sync timeline for theatrical effect……..” based on an almost true story’ is I guess the label it needs. But this has always been Jersey Boys ‘entertainment strength’ and ‘historical weakness’. You either accept the entertainment or feel cheated….I guess? Perhaps the most successful dramatic effect was the Francine storyline. It is well done throughout and although the adaptation was sensitive to the loss of a child, it is just not the real timeline
Personally I can't forgive the music production. Here was the chance to recreate ‘the sound’ of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons in ‘surround sound’. But this production fails to realize Bob Crewe’s majestic productions of the unerring vocal harmonies of the 60s hits. And even worse, as Rolling Stone says ” the immediacy(of the show) is lost. The camera keeps the music at a distance, a bitch when you're aiming for raw vitality. The result is a golden-oldies valentine sent by a well-meaning tribute band.”.The opening Prelude fails to capture any energy or excitement.(as the stage show does)...and I wasn't comfortable with the ending as the whole cast pranced around as part of the closing credits resembling the end of 'Shrek'.
But inevitably the conclusions of the USA's Daily Variety perhaps hit the spot….” Though Eastwood didn’t have the best of luck with musicals as an actor, this property ought to have been well within his directorial wheelhouse. As a helmer, he’s always had an astute ear for music; he excels at regionally specific ambiance and period studies, and here he avoids the music video shooting style that has turned so many recent film tuners into brightly coloured slurry. But as handsome as his compositions are, Eastwood’s filmmaking simply doesn’t have the snap or the feel for rhythm that the script’s rapid-fire theatrical patter requires, and the relative dearth of prominent musical performances turns what could have been a dancing-in-the-aisles romp into a bit of a slog.”
For many perhaps the film works as a piece of entertainment. A well staged and well acted drama with music......and although 5 songs are missing from the stage show it still almost worked....as a drama. ..not a music portrayal. And what happened to give us the 'crazy' trombone in 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You'?...I was embarrassed that it was sooooo bad. Significantly I found myself staying for all of the credits to hear Sherry and Rag Doll....the 'original sound' in surround sound. A highlight. It is no surprise the 'original hits' CD's are selling like hot cakes
But I do agree with John Hornsby… “the film nonetheless has its own peculiar charms”
As he says…”I think the big difference is that the play is like a live concert with the story of the group tying it all together, while the movie is the story of the group with the music tying it together. I have heard people coming out of the stage show saying "I could sit through that again"......because it's live music, like re-living a Seasons concert in the 60s. There is a difference. The two entertainments aim for different things.”
But my mixed feelings come down to one serious failing apart from the presentation of the music. The film suffers from a lack of time spent with attention to detail.......'8 track' recording was not available at the time of 'Sherry' and the recording sessions are not correct in several respects....and neon signs denoting 'Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons' above their heads during 'Walk like A Man' are simply wrong. They were 'The 4 Seasons' at that time.......but this to many is just technical detail. The acting by all the main characters is quite strong, and John Lloyd-Young is as good as anyone has got to Valli. ….but could a film actor have caught the drama better? Some stage show fans will be outraged because 5 songs are completely dropped,'Big Man In Town', 'Let's Hang On', 'C'Mon Marriane', 'Beggin' and 'Fallen Angel' but the drama doesn't suffer, even if the excitement does. Again that points to the lack of musical impact highlighted by The Telegraph comments above
But final judgement goes to two ladies in their 60s coming out of the cinema who spoke to me and I asked them if they enjoyed it......'Yes' they said...'Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio seemed like nice people'. So....notwithstanding my and others mixed feelings re the movie.....perhaps mission accomplished guys.?.......Surely most people who have seen it and the Stage Show will agree...The Stage Show rules!!