Clint Eastwood takes on the popular jukebox musical looking at the career of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and largely wrestles it to a draw. The reviews have generally been mixed here, and it’s not hard to see why as director Eastwood decided to make this a film about people who happened to be musicians rather than make a straight-up musical.
Unfortunately, Valli (John Lloyd Young) and his buddies just aren’t all that interesting – at least, not as we see them here – and much of the result here feels like a watered-down version of GoodFellas (the actual real-life Joe Pesci is even a character here). Sure, they grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in ’50s New Jersey and band member Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) worked for a local mobster named Gyp Rosetti (Christopher Walken), but it’s all petty thefts and minor break-ins while the band tours a bunch of thinly-sketched dives trying to make it big. Even when things do start to take off the film never really does, despite Eastwood showing a sure hand with a bunch of touches that should liven things up – most of the band members narrate at least part of their lives direct to camera, for one.
This never really delves deeply enough into the sordid stuff to give it any spark; Tommy racks up massive debts but we never see how, while one mildly naughty party is meant to symbolise all the wild goings-on that (presumably) took place on tour. Having the real-life Valli involved in the production may have had something to do with the watered-down approach to the band’s dark side, though the eventual break-up does provide a flicker of interest as all the bad blood finally surfaces.
While it’s often the smart choice to downplay the songs when adapting a musical for the big screen – much of the appeal of a stage musical is seeing a live performance, which is something the movies can’t replicate – here there’s nothing really left to make up for the loss. Even the songs themselves, while impressive enough, are fairly generic love songs impressively performed; the film can’t tie them into milestones in the guys’ lives and it doesn’t even try. It’s entertaining but hardly memorable. Investing in a Greatest Hits collection would probably be a more satisfying result.