Release Date: June 20, 2014
Running Time: 134 minutes
Clint Eastwood’s decision to temporarily abandon his long-gestating remake of A Star is Born in favor of adapting the Broadway jukebox musical Jersey Boy is something of a mixed blessing. While the world doesn’t need another remake of A Star is Born, even one that was once rumored to pair Beyoncé with Leonardo DiCaprio, Eastwood’s admittedly classy take on the Tony Award-winning Jersey Boys lacks the energy of Dreamgirls and the showmanship of Chicago. Flatly directed by Eastwood, and shot in washed-out tones by cinematographer Tom Stern, Jersey Boys is by no means a disaster on the scale of 2012’s cheesy Rock of Ages. The rise and fall of 1960s singing group Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons is inherently engrossing because it plays out in true Behind The Music fashion. Eastwood also makes the canny decision to cast Tony winner John Lloyd Young as Valli. He’s suitably angelic as the baby-faced falsetto who enjoys the admiration and protection of neighborhood mob boss Gyp DeCarlo. Eyes wet with tears of joy whenever around Valli, Christopher Walken makes us believes his DeCarlo is a kindly godfather and not a member of the feared Genovese crime family. Jersey Boys, though, isn’t told from Valli’s perspective despite the depth with which it explores his relationship with his friends and family. As with the stage show, Jersey Boys offers a documentary-style account of the Four Seasons’ memorable reign at the top of the pop charts. Much of Jersey Boys is seen through the eyes of Valli’s boyhood pal Tommy DeVito, although he emerges as the musical’s whipping boy. In Jersey Boys, DeVito ultimately undermines his role as the driving force behind The Four Seasons with a financial recklessness that threatens to destroy the group. Vincent Piazza steals every scene as DeVito thanks to his crude charm and “play now, pay later” attitude. The relationship between Valli and DeVito is constantly put to test to the point that it calls into question the loyalty New Jerseyans harbor toward friends, family and neighborhood that the musical seeks to romanticize. Jersey Boys portrays Valli as being loyal to a fault, resulting in a cautionary tale about placing your fate in the hands of friends you can’t and shouldn’t trust. Four Seasons bass guitarist Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda) and keyboardist/songwriter Bob Gaudio (Jersey Boys touring cast member Erich Bergen) also share their thoughts on the events that led up to the disintegration of the group in the 1970s. That’s not to say Jersey Boys possesses the Rashomon effect that screenwriters Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice—who wrote the book for the stage production—intended to create. Everything is weighed in favor of Valli, who is portrayed as being steadfast compared to the untrustworthy DeVito. What isn’t open to debate is the quality of the pop songs that the Four Seasons made together and separately. Eastwood throws in all the hit songs into Jersey Boys—“Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”—but he doesn’t really do them much justice with the bland way he stages the musical performances. He understands the relevance of the Four Seasons’ catalogue in regards both the group and pop music’s history. Eastwood’s passion for the music of jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker could be felt in every frame of his 1988 biography Bird. The same cannot be said about the hits of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons that continue to endure today.
Aired: June 19, 2014
Web site: http://www.jerseyboysmovie.com/