run time: 134 mins
considered: Biography, Drama, Musical
director: Clint Eastwood
starring: Vincent Piazza, John Lloyd Young, Christopher Walken, Michael Lomenda, Renee Marino, Joseph Russo, Erich Bergen, Mike Doyle
movie summary: Every musical group has a story to tell, sometimes there are great moments that led to superstardom or there are bad moments that lead to self-destruction and break up. Frank Valli and the Four Seasons were a huge success in the 1960’s with hits like Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry, and Walk Like a Man. They rose to popularity thanks to the amazing voice of their lead singer Frankie (John Lloyd Young), some shady deals by the group’s manager Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), the talented writing of Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen), the guitar playing and deep voice of Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda) and the backing of mobster Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken).
During the summer of 1951 Tommy was running a musical band with his brother Nick and Nick Massi. The three of them were always getting busted for minor crimes that would get them sent to prison for a few months at a time. Tommy was like a big brother to little Frankie Castelluccio who worked at a local barber shop but inspired to be a singer someday. He introduces Frankie to Gyp who offers to take him under his wing and protect him at all costs. When Tommy’s brother Nick gets sent to prison Frankie is given a chance to be the lead singer of the band. One night after a performance he meets the lovely Mary Delgado (Renee Marino) who he asks out to dinner. While eating Frankie explains he changed his performing name from Castelluccio to Valley. Mary makes fun of him for this decision and suggests he drop the Y in the place of an I to keep his named Italian. Frankie laughs at the suggestion but follows his future wife’s advice and changes his name to Frankie Valli.
Tommy and Nick are thrown in prison from a robbery which gives Frankie six months to continue to work at the barbershop and practice his singing voice. Frankie marries Mary and they soon start a family. When Tommy returns to run the band again they have changed their name to the Four Lovers with not much success. Even with Frankie’s voice the guys have a hard time landing gigs to pay their bills. Tommy continues to borrow money to keep the band afloat but this is only the beginning of his money issues. One night Joe Pesci (Joseph Russo) comes by the show to tell Tommy he’s got a friend who is an amazing singer and songwriter. Tommy is hesitate to hire Bob right off but Frankie and Nick love him, so he reluctantly agrees to bring him on. The Four Lovers try to get gigs but Tommy’s criminal past comes back to haunt them, Frankie suggests maybe changing their name could help. While standing outside of the Four Seasons Bowling Alley, the lightbulb goes off in Frankie’s head and the Four Lovers become the Four Seasons.
Armed with demo tapes Frankie and Bob head into New York City where they bump into record producer Bob Crewe (Erich Bergen). He is impressed with their voices so agrees to sign them as back up singers for other musicians. Tommy loses his cool after a year of back up singing because he wants to make it big and thinks the Four Seasons have what it takes. Crewe offers them a four demo track record opportunity for $3500. The guys don’t have that kind of money so Tommy borrows $5000 to set them up for a record. Bob writes the song Sherry and the guys perform it for Crewe over the phone, he gets so excited over the song that he rushes the guys into the studio to get this future #1 hit on the radio.
The Four Seasons turn into a sensation over night, Frankie leads the way his voice while Bob continues to write #1 hits. Bob approaches Frankie to offer a deal so the pair might perform songs outside of the band, Frankie doesn’t want to betray Tommy but is open to the possibilities that could come out of Bob’s proposal. The group headlines night clubs across the country and perform their hits on American Bandstand and the Ed Sullivan Show until Norman Waxman (Donnie Kehr) shows up demanding Tommy pay back the money he owes or heads will roll. Frankie calls a meeting with Gyp, Waxman, and the guys. They find out that Tommy owes over $160,000 to Waxman, Gyp tries to work out a settlement but even his power can’t fix the situation. Gyp suggests that Tommy move to Las Vegas and “disappear” until this situation blows over when Frankie decides to buy Tommy out of the band. Nick doesn’t like the way things are playing out so quits the band. Bob and Frankie agree to go on tour to pay back the money that Tommy owes. Things only get worse when Tommy reveals he’s stolen $500,000 from their tax account putting Frankie in a deeper hole to climb out of.
my thoughts: Jerseys Boys is a Broadway musical hit that was turned into a major motion picture with Clint Eastwood behind the camera calling the shots. It explores the life and times of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons from the 1960’s all the way to their Hall of Fame introduction in 1999. I didn’t know that Jersey Boys was a huge success on Broadway and when the trailer came out for this movie I had zero interest in it. For some reason I thought the movie was about a musical group from the 1940s but when I googled Frankie Valli I came to realize I recognize a lot of his songs and decided this picture would be worth watching. There are mixed reviews out there but I have to say I was impressed with Clint Eastwood’s latest movie.
One of the best things about this movie besides the songs is the acting. I don’t know how each person was in real life but Young, Piazza, Lomenda, and Bergen do a great job telling their character’s story from their point of view while hitting all the right notes. I loved how each character broke away from the story to give you their own perspective at different times, but the ball got dropped whenever it was Frankie’s turn. Just when you think he’d finally have his moment to share his side of the story, the camera pans around and there is always some one else there. It was the only problem I found besides Walken’s lack of appearances. I understand the role of Gyp DeCarlo, a silent guardian of sorts, but he only pops up in the story when things go wrong. He’s never once showed during the good times and when the boys are celebrating. I laughed at the young Joe Pesci and will say I was quiet shocked to learn that Frankie and Joe were pals back in the day, while being amazed that such a high pitch voice could come out Young. He doesn’t look like a singer let a lone someone who can copy a voice as legendary as Frankie Valli.
final thoughts: Jersey Boys will be a hit for the generation that grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, I could say this given the ages of people in the audience beside me on Sunday night. For people not familiar with Broadway play or Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons this may be a drag for you at 2:14 mins, but give it a chance anyways because it is worth it!
my star rating: 7 out 10
imdb.com: 7.4 out 10
rottentomatoes.com: 55% out 100%
rogerbert.com: 2 out 4