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Friday
Apr182014

Yes No Maybe So: "Jersey Boys"

From Tommy Lee Jones directing himself and The Swank we turn to another far more accomplished actor-turned-director. Clint Eastwood has won four Oscars in his career from two films (Unforgiven & Million Dollar Baby) but the 83 year old director has had a bit of a rougher run than usual in recent years, critically speaking. He's back with Jersey Boys based on the Broadway jukebox hit about the Four Seasons.

Let's divvy up our reactions to the trailer.

YES
• There will be a lot of music 
• Counterprogramming in the blockbuster realm of summer movies could help with critical reception so that's a smart move.
• Newish handsome actors in plum star-making position (if the movie is good and they ace it)
• Clint went from two-a-year to radio silence for two years. Maybe the time off did him good? This is, the longest break he's ever taking from directing since between The Gauntlet (1977) and Bronco Billy (1980). Maybe the time off will rejuvenate him...

NO

•... because Changeling/Gran Torino (2008), Invictus (2009)  Hereafter (2010) and J. Edgar (2011) were a dire quintet with hard-to-miss quality drops-off between each.
• The moment when Clint Eastwood's name comes up and it's paired with a suddenly plaintiff piano note is almost self-parodic considering his somber repertoire and his unfortunate desire to score all of his own movies. Something must have drawn him to this topic but have he and his chief accomplice (other than himself) Tom Stern smothered the joy from the Four Seasons music?
• People narrating directly to camera like they're still on the stage. Pass me the advil. Or revolver. Insufferable 
• Do we need more film celebrations of goodfellas bro-centric style Jersey? 
• If this is a hit, maybe Clint Eastwood will feel emboldened to remake A Star is Born with Beyoncé as he'd originally hoped. And nobody needs that remade. Again. (Three times would have to be enough right?)

MAYBE SO
•  Jersey Boys is a traditional biography (with a ♪ beat) and Clint is Clint so traditional forms ever so slightly tweaked (Unforgiven, Letters From Iwo Jima, Million Dollar Baby) are exactly what produces his best work.
• There doesn't look to be as much color and joy as one would expect from a pop culture musical but it doesn't look as inky, heavy and self-serious as recent Eastwood flicks and that has to be considered a smart change of pace at this juncture.
• Doesn't look like an Oscar play (not that that couldn't happen) which is something of a surprise.
• It's kind of a relief not to see famous miscast faces or at least it's a treat to get new faces, since the musical is about new stars. John Lloyd Young, playing Frankie Valli, won the Tony on stage. It's been a long time since a Tony winner was afforded the opportunity to transfer with their star-making vehicle. Not that you can't biff it if you stick with the original cast (see: Rent for a "why not to do that") but it doesn't happen enough not to celebrate it when it does. One can only assume that Meryl Streep turned down the role of Frankie Valli.

 

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Reader Comments (23)

It will be a hit regardless. The show is almost as unsinkable as Cats. Millions have seen it and will want to relive it. Momma Mia anyone?

I'm a Yes-Maybe So. I love the music and Clint knows his way around music albeit Jazz rather than pop most of all. If he sticks fairly close to the stage script, opening it up rather than trying to re-imagine it, it will work.

April 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

No, not even for the chance to see Walken in a musical (though I don't think he sings in it). Admittedly, I think the music is pretty terrible.

April 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Henry: One of the ways to "open" a stage play to a movie version is to cut down on artificial moments of a character walking/standing and flapping their lips to an unseen audience. (It's very rare that that kind of thing even arguably works in film, and the few times it really has, (to offer the least contested example: Ferris Bueller's Day Off) it's just ONE character that does it and it's done for comedy.) I count four of those (from three different characters!) in the trailer alone (Clint and team couldn't have at least had it be off-screen narration as opposed to what they do here?), which means there's likely at least a few more moments of that in the film itself and there's nothing that indicates they're supposed to be funny. Though you're almost certainly right that it will be popular, the summer release and that sloppy decision will likely kill Oscar play.

April 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I'm a no. Never seen the stage version. Never wanted to. Never cared for Frankie Valli's high-pitched squealing. Certainly never been a fan of East wood's filmmaking. Unless this gets some serious Oscar buzz, I think I'll skip.

April 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

Being a fan of Clint I think this looks great!! With Clint the script needs to be good. I think that is why j.edgar failed cause the script cared more about presenting him as gay rather than the monster he was. I mean Hoover was one of the most feared men ever and that film never showed it. But when Clint is on his game he is on his game!! Unforgiven is just out of this world and this is a great show so I think this could be his return!!

April 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJosh

Nathaniel- I'm glad Meryl turned this down.. It was for the best😄

April 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

Who would have Meryl played?

April 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJosh

I want Clint and Streep together again!

April 18, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

@Josh: Read the article again. ;-)

I'm actually a fan of breaking the fourth wall in film. It was one of my favorite things about The Wolf of Wall Street.

April 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Yeah I realized it was a joke but forgot to write a follow up cause I was having a few beers but yeah my bad!!

April 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJosh

I loved your Meryl joke. Not that you need praise or anything...

April 18, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterzig

I'm a Maybe So. I love Clint's work, but agree that his recent run has been less than impressive. And I've become thoroughly sick and tired of the dark, inky look the recent films had. Jersey Boys looks at least a little brighter - and more upbeat. I'm hoping that the trailer is hiding what will turn out to be a surprisingly good film.

April 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

Right now is maybe...

April 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

I'm kinda surprised this wasn't for the Gone Girl trailer instead. Maybe I'm just over Eastwood (unless he's sharing a screen with Amy Adams and even then…), but that trailer seems by far the most intriguing of recent additions. Or is it cause the GG one felt more like a teaser? I dunno, kind of felt like an actual trailer to me. Either way, I'm a no on this one unless reviews are stellar. My interest is so low I could barely make myself watch the trailer. I truly love musicals AND watching trailers so that's a bad sign.

April 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDrewB

Meh on Eastwood.

Meh on the music.

"One can only assume that Meryl Streep turned down the role of Frankie Valli."

I might watch it if only because it inspired that line, so it can't be entirely worthless.

April 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

I was so surprised when Eastwood announced his involvement with this property. Nothing has ever suggested to me he had the slightest interest in 60's Brill Building pop. As far as I know, he's a hardcore jazz fan, so I'd expect him to approach these songs with little but resigned condescension. The film needs a director with - among other things - a genuine passion for early 60's pop. Eastwood may well have the other things but I somehow doubt he's got that. I enjoyed the play - but don't expect much from the movie, certainly not a heartfelt,high-energy celebration of the music. And without that, Nat, I'm just left nodding agreement to your observation: "Do we really need more film celebrations of Good Fellas bro-centric Jersey style?"

April 19, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKen

zig - i am neurotically need, so, need it i do.

drewb -- yeah that seemed like a teaser and initially i was going to have that as part of this post but . then it was going to be a piece on rosamund pike with it. and then. it kept morphing so it was never finished. blargh

suzanne - yeah, that strikes me as the dumbest thing ever. I like Yentl but it was so crushing to see a musical with Mandy Patinkin in it in which he didn't sing!!! so christopher walken better at least be shown dancing or something in the background.

April 19, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Bad CGI aside, Hereafter was a surprisingly nimble and understated film from Eastwood. I agree that the others were all ho-hum affairs, but Hereafter wasn't nearly as dire. And he somehow managed to fit in a child performance that wasn't headache-inducing.

I am firmly in the 'no' category on this one, though. The combination of jukebox musical, Joysey characters and muted nostalgia are enough to make me vomit. I won't be seeing this one unless the reviews are positively stellar. It practically needs an RT score of 100 to get me into the theater.

April 19, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterW.J.

Maybe So to Yes. I was dragged to Jersey Boys on Broadway kicking and screaming and had a shockingly great time. The show is like a machine - once it starts it just keeps on rolling on its own accumulating momentum and power and you're helpless to do anything but go along with it. It's a surprisingly well-crafted stage show, which is probably why they didn't change the central conceit of the characters narrating their own story... even if that can make for a not-so-well-crafted film. But honestly, if they didn't do that, they would have had to MASSIVELY retool the entire thing, to the point where it would basically be a completely different property. The trailer looks good, and it's got an extremely canny release date, so I'm intrigued, but slightly nervous. If the reviews are good, I'll definitely see it, and if they're not... well, I'll probably see it anyway if I have nothing else to see.

April 19, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

Ha - of the "dire quintet" I liked all but the last one, J. Edgar, and really like three of them. Oops!

I have no idea what to make of this one. Visually it's clearly an Eastwood picture - the color scheme, the mood lighting, all of it is very distinctively post-Mystic River Clint. Everything else seems ported over from someone else's movie - which makes this a "Maybe so" for me just for the sheer WTF-factor.

April 20, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

Maybe so. I think it is intriguing but I'll wait for reviews.

April 20, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Lipp

My parents will love it. Does that help?

I'm a yes / maybe so. Depends on reviews, but I do like some of those songs.

April 20, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

So much would have been lost from the musical if they had done voiceovers instead of breaking the fourth wall. Usually I hate that shit too (hate it when it's done on television for no reason: looking at you, Kevin Spacey and William Shitner). It's hella ballsy for Clint to incorporate that device here. Whether it works or not remains to be seen. I'm so in on opening night. I don't care at all about the haters. Loved the musical and looking forward to seeing this for myself! YES for me!

April 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMason

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