This is one film that’s tough to go the distance with, slicing fifty minutes out of the beginning would certainly improve matters as the first half is lacking in almost every department. It’s Clint Eastwood’s latest directorial effort (one of his older films makes a brief appearance, but he remains behind the camera this time around) and it’s based on the award winning musical of the same name which documents the rise to fame of sixties sensations Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, with John Lloyd Young as Valli and Vincent Piazza, Erich Bergen and Michael Lomenda playing band members Tommy DeVito, Bob Gaudio and Nick Massi respectively.
It’s really the same old story that seems to chart the progress of nearly every band and musician immortalised on film – humble beginnings, success, excess and then infighting that brings an end to the group. Initially, the cinematography and funeral march pace to the film cause huge problems – everyone and everything has a horrid eerie paleness that makes the people look more like spectres than live actors, but the singing and acting doesn’t really fit the bill either, with Valli at times about as vocally emotive as a dying squid. Eventually, as time passes in terms of years, more colour comes back in, or rather less is taken out, and when it comes to the larger numbers, everything is a little more polished and fluid. It suggests that a famous scene from Billy Wilder’s ‘Ace in the Hole’ (51) is responsible for one of their biggest hits ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’ (and it’s a really terrific film if you haven’t seen it, although if it’s the scene I think it is the clip here cuts off before the main event as it were). Unfortunately, despite picking up significantly, it never really proves terribly interesting, although it is at least partially successful in extolling the virtues of looking out for family and taking responsibility for one’s actions.