Stage-to-screen musical biopic is off the charts
By Ian Murphy 06/26/2014
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Starring: Vincent Piazza, John Lloyd Young, Christopher Walken
Rated R for language throughout
Back in the day, musicals were the end-all, be-all of cinematic success. Nowadays, they seem more like nostalgic sentiments of what once was. Jersey Boys is not a musical in the traditional sense, but it is a combination of that old-school emotion and a strangely modern sense of real life, with a profound respect for the music it celebrates — and gangsters, infidelity, a hell of a soundtrack and a lot of other things that are involved in quality entertainment.
Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young) is a young man with a gift. The gift of song. He possesses a voice that is unlike anything anyone has ever heard. While making ends meet working in a barber shop, he gets in good with Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken), an unrepentant mob boss with big connections and an ear for music. With Gyp backing them, Frankie is recruited by his best friend, Tommy (Vincent Piazza), to sing in a band he has formed. Their rise to stardom is slow, but eventually they make it to the big time. Unfortunately, ties to bookies, flings with floozies and dealings with stone-cold gangsters spin the group on a reckless trip
down a rocky road.
Based on the acclaimed Broadway smash hit, Jersey Boys is a very well-done adaptation from stage to screen. Fans of Chicago will surely agree. With four Tony awards under its belt (including the 2006 best musical and best actor John Lloyd Young), the source material practically demanded the proverbial star treatment. And it got it. Director Clint Eastwood delivers hits as reliably as the Four Seasons, and this one does not disappoint. The film is a combination of That Thing You Do and Goodfellas, with a better soundtrack. Christopher Walken is especially good in an unusually subdued performance. The tendency for the main characters (except for Frankie Valli) to break the fourth wall and address the audience is strange at first, but it becomes not so much endearing as wanted, as the characters act as guides through a crazy ride.
The Four Seasons were rock stars before that term, even existed, and this film shows it, in the spotlights that adorn every shot of them on stage and in the shadowy actions that happen off stage. Watching Jersey Boys gives you a true sense of what it must have been like to come from nothing, get everything, and feel the desperate heartache as it falls from your grasp. Much like the music that Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons performed, Jersey Boys seems like bubble gum, but is really a jawbreaker. The music is timeless, the directing is wonderful and the performances are brilliant. Don’t be surprised when this gem resurfaces in theaters again right before Oscar time.