“Yet for all his fidelity to the Broadway source, Clint Eastwood has made a Jersey Boys movie that ultimately differs from the stage version in several key respects. It’s an altogether moodier, more real, edgier piece of work, more Bird than Bye Bye Birdie, giving equal weight to the personal tragedies of Frankie Valli and his bandmates — busted-up marriages, estranged children, embezzlement scams and dangerous entanglements with the Jersey mob — as to their professional triumphs. Onstage, misfortune was frequently softened by the show’s overarching uptempo mood. But onscreen, Eastwood hits as many blue notes as four-part harmonies.” — from Scott Foundas‘s 6.10 Variety piece on Eastwood and the film.
Until a day or two ago I hadn’t spoken to anyone who’d actually seen Clint Eastwood‘s Jersey Boys (Warner Bros., 6.20) which is closing out the Los Angeles Film Festival. Then I realized that a critic friend had recently had the pleasure. Me: “So on a scale of 1 to 10, Jersey Boys is a…?” Critic friend: “Thankfully I haven’t had to give scores like this since I stopped reviewing on [a radio show] a few years back.” Me: “It’s at least a 7 or 7.5, right? Clint always delivers a 7 at least. Naturally I’d prefer an 8. I know it’s not an 8.5 or a 9. I mean, I strongly suspect as much. 10 is obviously out of the question.” Critic friend: “You’re incorrigible.”
The reactions to Clint Eastwood‘s Jersey Boys started out with critics calling it very Clinty and a little less Broadway-flashy than it could be, but an interesting, respectable ride. Then everything started to go downhill. The critical word of mouth has been so mixed-dismissive (60% on Rotten Tomatoes, 54% on Metacritic) that I’ve been half-regarding tonight’s Los Angeles Film Festival screening as the final word-of-mouth nail in the coffin. And then along comes N.Y. Post critic Lou Lumenick calling it “one of the year’s best.” What?
My first reaction was “Okay, I get it…Lumenick is a tri-state area kind of guy — born in Queens, formerly a critic for NJ’s Bergen Record — and he’s basically saluting the Manhattan-New Jersey cultural aspects as much as the film.” Which makes me wonder if other critics with Soprano-land ties are going dippy also. I wonder what former New Jersey guy Glenn Kenny will say? I wonder what I’ll think, for that matter, as I grew up in a mellow little Wonderbread town called Westfield, which nonethless had its share of guineas who wore pegged pants and black pointed lace-ups with metal taps on the heels.
2.27, 4:45 pm.
8th and 44th. 2.26, 7:15 pm.
Parking it at Friend of a Farmer, a comfortable, agreeably homey two-story restaurant on Irving Place that has been in operation for some 23 years. Serves first-rate comfort food. 2.27, 9:25 pm. [Photo by Svetlana Cvetko.]
Several top-tier critics attended Thursday night’s gala premiere of Dexter Fletcher‘s Rocketman, the Elton John musical biopic, and their reviews began to pop just before 2 am Cannes time. I’ve read four or five so far, and the general verdict seems to be that it’s less interested in rock biopic realism (i.e., who John actually was and how he found his voice) and more interested in selling the flamboyant glam aspects of John’s early career.
In short, Rocketman sounds (and please stop me if you think I’m overdoing it here) like an Elton John flick for simpletons — for superficial minds, the easily impressed and your none-too-hip iTunes purchasers of one of John’s greatest hits albums.
I’m alluding to people who associate Elton more with his having sung the Lady Diana version of “Candle in the Wind” or perhaps for his Ceasar’s Palace gigs in Las Vegas than, say, his first serious industry gig at West Hollywood’s Troubadour in August ’70, or for his legendary, self-named 1970 debut album or the equally great “Honky Chateau” (’72).
Before I post a couple of review excerpts, I want HE regular Bobby Peru to consider the following line from Peter Debruge’s Variety review, to wit: “It’s Taron Egerton’s voice doing most of the singing here. He’s solid, but he’s no match for Elton’s pipes.”
HE to Debruge: No shit?
Another Debruge line: “Rocketman isn’t really about Elton as a musician.”
TheWrap‘s Steve Pond: “Bohemian Rhapsody acted like a standard biopic with concert and recording scenes thrown in, [but] Rocketman takes a wilder, bolder approach: It’s a full-fledged musical, using dozens of Elton John songs to tell his life story in a way that freely mixes reality and fantasy.
“This is a jukebox musical for the big screen, Mamma Mia! forced into a vaguely biographical form or one of the Broadway shows that use an artist’s music to tell their story, among them Jersey Boys and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.”
“But it’s about Elton John, so that means it’s bigger, wilder, more extravagant and more excessive than those works. Sometimes that means it’s more fun, too, but it can also be a melodramatic slog when it’s not embracing the craziness of its musical numbers. And some of those numbers, to be honest, are far more diverting than others.
“As someone who hated Bohemian Rhapsody‘s factual errors, I can respect a biopic that announces from the start that it’s not to be taken seriously as an account of what actually happened. So while I struggled with a narrative that uses songs years before they were written, I know the rules of this particular game == and if what we see onscreen has a little crazy poetry in it, and it captures a bit of how things might have felt to Elton way back when, that’s all that matters.”
What did the proverbial room feel like while Jersey Boys was playing, and what was the after-vibe as the crowd shuffled out? Obviously $13.5 million isn’t that great for an opening weekend, and even if it triples this a final gross in the mid 30s has to be seen as a flop for a film that cost $38 million to shoot, not counting marketing costs. What I’m sensing is that the none-too-hip 60-plus crowd is fairly pleased with Boys and that it might have longer legs than anticipated….maybe. How did it play? Did anyone notice any under-40s?
Snapped on Fifth Avenue during the summer of ’09. (I think.) I honestly feel this is among the best midtown Manhattan shots I’ve ever taken.
The guy with the sharply-chiselled features in this 56 year-old one-sheet for Jailhouse Rock (’58) has an Elvis Presley-like appearance, but he never looked like Presley himself. Presley had a sultry, slightly more feminine face. You know who this guy DOES resemble, and I mean closely? Jersey Boys costar Vincent Piazza, who plays Tommy DeVito.
New Year’s Eve in Times Square, going into 1964. Notice that Otto Preminger’s THE Cardinal is occupying the big DeMille theatre corner billboard at B’way and 47th.
I saw Clint Eastwood‘s Jersey Boys last night, and I really don’t have much to add to the wolf-pack snarlings. It’s not great but it’s not too bad. I didn’t hate it. I liked the big musical dance finale in which all the characters bop down Main Street. But it is what it is — a very old-fashioned rags-to-riches, hard-knocks-and-perseverance showbiz tale that gets a few things wrong (i.e., Frankie Valli singing a few bars of the 1957 song “Silhouettes” in 1951) and constantly feels “acted” (sometimes annoyingly so) and is at times wildly inauthentic and minus anyone’s idea of genuine grit, punch or Scorsese-ish streetcorner flavor. The downish third act drags on for too long, but what’s the point of complaining? We all know what “directed by Clint” means. It means he likes to let his films gradually come together at a relaxed, no-hurry pace. I wrote several weeks ago that the somewhat stodgy old-world (or in this instance “old New Jersey”) vibe might be a fit since most of the recreated events in the film happened between 40 and 63 years ago. You’re watching it and saying to yourself, “Yup, this is how movies like this used to feel and unfold.” LexG will probably hate it but there’s no defending a film like this. Those with a taste or tolerance for this sort of thing will be okay with it, and those who can’t relax with it or merge with the vibe will walk out or groan in their seat or whatever. Everyone agrees that John Lloyd Young‘s performance as Mr. Valli is on the money, but Vincent Piazza‘s as Tommy DeVito (i.e., the asshole/villain of the piece) feels oppressively one-note, I feel. Most of us like listening to Four Seasons hits to there’s no point in bringing that up, etc. I just wish that somehow Clint had found a way to work in “Connie-O,” which might be my favorite Four Seasons song of all.
It might as well be faced — Clint Eastwood‘s Jersey Boys is looking at choppy if not rough seas from a critical perspective. And, if you believe the tracking, from a commercial perspective also. But let’s stick to the critical for now. Not that anyone is rooting for a flop. Eastwood’s reluctance to direct a standard uptempo jukebox musical deserves respect. But you can smell the discomfort out there.
On one hand, TheWrap‘s Alonso Duralde says that “if you’re a fan of harmonic 1960s pop, or cars with fins, Jersey Boys will provide a nice evening out at the movies. It’s nice. It’s entertaining. It’s pleasant. It’s all the positive adjectives that mean ‘not terrible but ultimately negligible.’ It fulfills the duties of a jukebox musical: it works in the hits, and it casts singers who make those hits sound virtually identical to the original versions. What the movie doesn’t do is answer the question, ‘Why did I just spend 134 minutes watching the Frankie Valli episode of Behind the Music?'”
On the somewhat more compassionate side, The Hollywood Reporter‘s Todd McCarthy writes that “a dash of showbiz pizzazz has been lost but some welcome emotional depth has been gained. If the ultimate aim of the Broadway musical version was to get the audience on its feet for the final feel-good medley, Eastwood goes for a more mixed mood, combining the joy of the music with what Valli, in particular, lost and cold never regain. Still, commercial uncertainties attach to the potential interest of young viewers unfamiliar with the band and [a] musical milieu of a half-century ago.”
The fact that Clint Eastwood‘s Jersey Boys (Warner Bros., 6.20) has been selected as the closing-night film for the Los Angeles Film Festival on June 19th, or 12 hours before it opens nationwide, says something. If the film had been chosen as the festival opener, fine, but the closer? Why didn’t Warner Bros. offer it as a non-competitive Cannes entry? Where’s the confidence, guys? I’m not saying Jersey Boys might not work as a film. My 4.17 response to the trailer was that “it’s obviously going to play it right down the middle and maybe feel a little old-fashioned, but it’s going to be at least half-decent.” But the LA FilmFest booking tells me it’s a little soft. Pic stars John Lloyd Young, Erich Bergen, Michael Lomenda, Vincent Piazza and Christopher Walken.
Clint Eastwood‘s Jersey Boys (Warner Bros., 6.20) is going to be at least half-decent. It’s obviously going to play it right down the middle and maybe feel a little old-fashioned, but that’s appropriate in this context. John Lloyd Young‘s voice is dead-on but couldn’t they find a guy who actually looks like Frankie Valli? (Young looks like a thin Bruno Kirby.) The Four Seasons delivered an Italian-American New York area “doo-wop,” also known among hardcore aficionados as “wop rock.” (Perhaps the most classic manifestation being The Tokens‘ “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”) Everyone thinks doo-wop peaked in the mid to late ’50s, but the Four Seasons didn’t even begin to be famous until 1962. My favorite FS tune was always “Candy Girl.”
Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone and I have posted a list of Most Anticipated 2014 Films. Here’s hers — mine’s sitting in the all-new Oscar Balloon. I had some issues with some of her choices to we kicked it around a day or two ago. We both received our Cannes 2014 press credential approvals early this morning so we started the day off in a good mood. We’re both a little confused about whether or not Christopher Walken does any dancing or not in Clint Eastwood‘s Jersey Boys (he definitely doesn’t sing) but I’ve since been told that the Broadway jukebox musical, which I’ve never paid the slightest attention to, is quite well written in terms of character and story turns so maybe there’s hope. Nobody knows much at this stage, but that didn’t stop us