How Will ‘Jersey Boys’ Fare in Breaking the Fourth Wall?

Jersey Boys is a big glitzy musical full of show-stopping, finely tuned musical numbers, and that signature layered sound that originally shuttled Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons to the top of the music charts in the ’60s. Now, Clint Eastwood is looking to shrink the live theater experience into a film adaptation.

The first trailer for the Jersey Boys film has been released, and the upcoming flick looks to stick pretty closely to the source material. The original musical tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Season, a couple of rough and tumble kids from Jersey that defied the odds and became pop music sensations. John Lloyd Young, the original Tony winning star of the show, is reprising his role as Valli for the film. The Jersey Boys film looks to carry over stage show’s beguiling narration where each member of the Four Seasons tells a different, skewed version of the group’s collective story. Breaking the fourth wall is a device used by many television shows and films, and while it remains to be seen whether Jersey Boys uses the device well, some works have used it better than others.

Jersey Boys, TrailerWarner Bros. UK Trailers/YouTube

Wolf of Wall Street 
Does it work: 
Yes. Scorsese’s ode to excess uses the fourth wall device sparingly, having the crass Jordan Belfort unload his unholy sermons on the almighty dollar in only a few doses. It only happens a handful of times throughout the film so the technique never overstays it’s welcome.

House of Cards
Does it work: 
It’s a mixed bag. While it’s sometimes fun to hear Frank Underwood deliver a vicious tongue lashing in that deep-throated southern drawl, many of the fourth wall breaking asides in House of Cards only serve as the delivery mechanism for mind numbing exposition. It’s almost as if the show doesn’t trust us to follow along with its political punches without Frank directly telling us what is happening.

Fight Club
Does it work: 
Yes. Fight Club is often a call to action as much as it is a riotously loopy thriller. Both Brad Pitt and Edward Norton speak right to the audience while denouncing the shackling nature of our consumerist, image-obsessed culture.

Malcolm in the Middle
Does it work:
Yes, the episodes near-constant shattering of the narrative/audience barrier is in deeply coded into the DNA of the show. Malcolm in the Middle simply wouldn’t be Malcolm in the Middle without Frankie Muniz’s exacerbated asides to the camera. If you had a family like that, you’d probably start talking to an imaginary audience as well.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Does it work:
 An emphatic yes. Ferris’ one day sabbatical from high school isn’t just a solo adventure. You and everyone else in the audience is along for the ride. Part of the reason Ferris Bueller has endured over the years is because of Bueller’s ability to seemingly warp and shape reality around him and ensure that everyone is having a good time. It’s the ultimate teenage power fantasy, and you have you’re own personal demigod tour guide.