Tuesday, 24 June 2014


Clint Eastwood has never been the most philosophical of directors. Thematically, his films are simple and straightforward, their surface-based plot machinations kept busy to suffice for any lack of depth. Burdened with this non-fiction tale, a musical biopic, he flounders, with a film that has no narrative centre, and thus no real hook, no significant point of interest onto which we can latch and begin to invest our compassion. His latest cinematic experiment is one almost entirely unsuited to his skills as a filmmaker, with a fickle, flitting plot structure that demands a breeziness he doesn't possess, as opposed to the delicacy he does. The problem isn't Eastwood's reluctance to shut up and play the hits - not at all, they're here in abundance, and his defiantly non-theatrical staging of them actually befits this story on the screen. The problem is that Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice's screenplay discloses none of the sympathy for their characters that it requires we cough up instead. They give Eastwood scenes of conflict and reconciliation that cry out for his probing, perceptive touch, but embedded within a shallow framework that relies upon the glamour and the nostalgia of the story rather than its emotional content. So Jersey Boys' success as a movie varies from scene to scene, depending on which elements are given the most room to shine, in what is an extremely sprawling enterprise in many regards: the performances fizz one moment, the dialogue drags the next. The cinematography is seductive in one shot, then over-saturated the next. The bizarre hodgepodge builds to a dire climactic scene set at the Four Seasons' induction into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, where the achingly drawn-out monologues (an aspect of the show that only reduces the degree of our empathy on film) vies with the old-age makeup for sheer heinousness. But the film is a hodgepodge of great as much as terrible, and though he continues to skimp on the philosophical complexity, Clint Eastwood remains a master of mood, and crafts a number of tart, evocative scenes here.