The story of four young men from the wrong side of the tracks in New Jersey who came together to form the iconic 1960s rock group The Four Seasons.
It was only a matter of time before this smash-hit Broadway musical was shifted to the big screen. What was a surprise was that it is brought there by Clint Eastwood, making his first move into musicals at the tender age of 84. The story centres around Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young) and The Four Seasons and their rise, fall and rise again in the music industry from the mean streets of New Jersey. The cast is mainly newcomers to the screen, plucked straight from the stage, with a star-turn cameo from Christopher Walken the only familiar face (that’s if you don’t count Erich Bergen, who is the spitting image of 24 & Argo’s Tate Donovan!)
The film is told in monologue-to-camera style by each of the other three members of the Four Seasons, primarily by the Artful Dodger-type Tommy (Vincent Piazza). I’m rarely keen on breaking the fourth wall (even in the excellent Wolf of Wall Street, I would have cut the monologues) and while I accept that on stage this works as a simple plot device, on screen I feel the story should be able to tell itself. Piazza to his credit does well with it – it’s a meaty part and by far the most interesting character. The storyline is hit and miss, I could have done without the clichéd family breakdown, and the 1990 epilogue seemed misjudged. Clocking in at almost 2 and a half hours, I feel were this not directed by a man with Eastwood’s clout, the studio and editor would have had a bigger say.
What should have been the film’s saving grace, the musical segments, were disappointing. I haven’t seen the stage show but I have read that it is a raucous, dancing-in-the-aisles singalong. On film, the joy was sucked out of most of the performances of hits such as Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry and Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, with only the post-credits song-and-dance sequence hitting the mark for me.
Overall, a film that is not without merit but goes down as a missed opportunity.
Review by Richard Mason
Directed By: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Vincent Piazza, John Lloyd Young, Steve Schirripa, Kathrine Narducci, Erich Bergen, Michael Lomenda, Lou Volpe, Johnny Cannizzaro and Christopher Walken