Directed by: Clint Eastwood. As you may have noticed, I sometimes start these things with a dumb little personal preamble about how I happened to find this particular film, or why it appealed to me, or how I saw it on the shelf of the local library and I thought the front cover looked neat, or something else equally long-winded and equally fascinating. In this case, I’m really pretty ashamed in how appealing this kind of obvious, flag-waving schmaltz was to me. At first, I thought the Broadway musical was just another sappy, paint-by-numbers, rags-to-riches story about some made up ding dongs who fictionally stand in for American youth of the postwar period “coming of age”, with awful voice-overs on top of pitch perfect, lifeless recordings of generic stand-in music. Basically, I thought it would be Grease but with doo-wop instead of rockabilly. And really, all of that shit still stands, with one important correction: it’s not based on fictional ding dongs with generic ding dong doo-wop, it’s about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons who, if they were anything like the movie shows them, were definitely ding dongs, but the music is some of the best pop music ever recorded! And as long as I’m being self-indulgent here, I just have to explain how this film sits at a particular place for me in the unfolding of a very strange phenomenon which probably has a name in German or Japanese or something, but which I have to resort to naming, predictably, Frankie Valli Syndrome. All I mean is that, for most of my life, I’ve gone around with the conscious opinion that I don’t really have any opinion on Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and their songs, I wouldn’t rank it as any of my favourite music, it’s not on my radar, it’s just some group of singers that did some corny 50’s doo-wop like “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, and who cares about that anyway? But then, within the space of a year, after being slowly reintroduced to their hits, hit after hit, and that feeling where you simultaneously realize that it was, in fact, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons who did all of those songs, and that I actually really love all of those songs. So basically, it’s a really particular and uncanny sensation where, in a pretty short span of time, you go from being totally ambivalent about something, to realizing that you actually love that something, and it’s something that you hold very close to your heart and in fact, have held close to your heart for your whole life. It’s like if you had that disease where you couldn’t recognize your own mother, but then one day it just kicks in—oh right! You!
So then, it should be taken as read that this movie is not very good, it’s actually pretty awful—brightly lit, flat looking, flat characterization, looks like a re-creation of the 50’s with impeccable costumes and shiny vintage cars and affected New Jersey accents, and impeccable, note-perfect studio re-creations of all of these actual hits (for the most part, instead of the actual hits). And I’m not gonna touch on how this film relates to Clint Eastwood’s filmography (I’ll leave that to the pros), but as far as musical biopics go, this is extremely average to pretty awful. The guy who plays Frankie Valli did an okay job, the kid from Boardwalk Empire was fine but I still don’t like him, and Christopher Walken was also fine, but again, the entire thing just comes off as a big, flat, boring, blah of a movie. But hey, that’s what I get for watching Jersey Boys. If you don’t like it, go listen to some Franki Valli.