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  Jersey Boys A Pizza Their Mind
Year: 2014
Director: Clint Eastwood
Stars: John Lloyd Young, Vincent Piazza, Erich Bergen, Michael Lomenda, Christopher Walken, Mike Doyle, Joseph Russo, Renée Marino, Donnie Kehr, Lacey Hannan, Ivar Brogger, Clint Ward, James Madio, Jeremy Luke, Louis Lombardi, Chaz Langley
Genre: Biopic, MusicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: In Belleville, New Jersey 1961, Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) is here to tell us how it really was with his music group The Four Seasons, as according to him he's the man who knows best. He explains that in this neighbourhood, there were three choices to take for a path through life: you could join the Army, in which case you could well end up dead, you could join the Mafia, in which case the same thing could happen, or you could take the third way, into showbusiness. This is what he took, and he brought his friend Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young) with him, bringing him out of his job as a trainee barber to the stage, though they were not to be entirely free of the Mob, as local Mr Big Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken) was a powerful man there...

Clint Eastwood would seem at first glance to be an odd choice for such a project as a musical based in New Jersey, or at least springing from there, since you often associate him with the sunnier climes of California, but it was not as if he had never made a film that had connections to a good tune, and indeed he had performed in a musical back in the late nineteen-sixties with the infamous Paint Your Wagon, and enjoyed success with the song I Talk to the Trees from that, if not as much success as Lee Marvin had with Wand'rin Star. However, though melody was very important to Eastwood, that did not necessarily indicate he would be comfortable with his cast breaking out into dance numbers.

And so it was, as this was less a straightforward musical and more a film with music as its subject, though even then it was the ducking and diving vital to sustaining a career in showbiz from the mid-twentieth century all the way up to decades later that most appeared to captivate his director's eye. As many pointed out, surely this would have been a production better suited to Martin Scorsese, there was even a character based on Joe Pesci who quotes his "Funny how?" line from Goodfellas, a work Eastwood looked to be echoing. Yet Scorsese's essential flair was missing, replaced by a no-nonsense approach that may have been crisp but did not convey much in the way of enjoyment, with any sense of humour relegated to minor scenes and the rest of it sincere but oddly joyless.

This lack of pep translated into poor reviews and middling box office returns, though fans of the Four Seasons were doubtless well served by this adaptation of the award-winning and very popular stage show, that in spite of us not hearing a full performance of one of the band's songs here until the movie was almost halfway over, another odd choice. Before that there was the emphasis on the sheer slog through life that entails making it as a celebrity, being very serious about the blood, sweat and tears that go into even the creation of a three minute pop record, and after that ensuring it has enough to stand out as a hit, a task delegated to songwriter Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen). More than that, a classic, and the cast of unknowns to cinema were handpicked from the stage incarnations to do justice to the tale, and obviously to handle the vocal duties, most blatantly Young as frontman Frankie.

Even so, where many directors would render the past vivid by painting it as an exciting time of bright colours, Eastwood chose a drab, muted palate, another indication he was taking the job as a very grave task where the down side to fame - achieving it and keeping hold of it - was underlined. Frankie's homelife is more or less the only one we get to see, but that appears to be a morass of misery with a marriage breaking up and hearbreak over one of his daughters, while Tommy, who does not come across at all well, manages to get the group landed in a massive debt with one of those gangsters who swim sharklike around even the first whiff of success. Walken was the sole "name" actor in the cast, and put in a decent performance, but you tended to look to him for the acting rather than the rest of them, unfair but more an indication of the others allowing their roles to dominate them rather than the other way around. Still, it was professionally done, certainly wasn't a disaster, but there was a dour and dutiful air about it that eliminated any lightness in the actual music.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Clint Eastwood  (1930 - )

Becoming a superstar in the late 1960s gave Clint Eastwood the freedom to direct in the seventies. Thriller Play Misty for Me was a success, and following films such as High Plains Drifter and The Outlaw Josey Wales showed a real talent behind the camera as well as in front of it. He won an Oscar for his downbeat Western Unforgiven, which showed his tendency to subvert his tough guy status in intriguing ways. Another Oscar was awarded for boxing drama Million Dollar Baby, which he also starred in.

Also a big jazz fan, as is reflected in his choice of directing the Charlie Parker biopic Bird. Other films as director include the romantic Breezy, The Gauntlet, good natured comedy Bronco Billy, Honkytonk Man, White Hunter Black Heart, The Bridges of Madison County, OAPs-in-space adventure Space Cowboys, acclaimed murder drama Mystic River, complementary war dramas Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima and harrowing true life drama Changeling. Many considered his Gran Torino, which he promised would be his last starring role (it wasn't), one of the finest of his career and he continued to direct with such biopics as Jersey Boys, American Sniper and The Mule to his name.

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