Jersey Boys (R) ★★★½

John Llyod Young, Vincent Piazza, Michael Lomenda, and Erich Bergen start in "Jersey Boys." Photo credit: Warner Bros.
John Llyod Young, Vincent Piazza, Michael Lomenda, and Erich Bergen star in “Jersey Boys.” Photo credit: Warner Bros.

Jersey Boys Hits Most Notes, Not All

Whether fighting or singing, the Jersey Boys are hands down entertaining. Screen legend and Academy Award winning director Clint Eastwood (Trouble with the Curve, 2012) obviously realized this too when he decided to direct and produce the biopic-drama, Jersey Boys.

Based on the Tony Award-winning musical of the same name, Jersey Boys opens in Belleville, New Jersey in 1951. This rags to riches story focuses on four young men Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza, Boardwalk Empire, 2010-2013), Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda), Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen, How Sweet It Is, 2013) and Franki Castelluccio who came from different walks of life to form the iconic ‘60s group, The Four Seasons. Although there are many trials and tribulations that the group faces along their journey to fame, there are also triumphs to match.

Teenage Frankie Castelluccio (John Lloyd Young, Vegas, 2013) is living at home in his heavily populated Italian American community and is making ends meet by working at a local barbershop. Little did he know what the future would hold for him.

The rough around the edges Tommy DeVito takes the young and innocent Frankie under his wing and founds a rock and pop band with Nick. After countless shows in bars and clubs, Tommy realizes that trios aren’t making it in the business anymore and is on the hunt for a fourth band member. With a little help his buddy, Joey (Steve Schirripa), Tommy comes across the straight-laced writer and singer, Bob Gaudio. Tommy knows Bob is the missing puzzle piece and wants Bob to join the group, but puts up a tough fight with the other band members before caving and inviting Bob into the group, The Four Lovers.

The film has a bit of a darker cast than Broadway, but is enjoyable in it’s own right. Eastwood doesn’t change his conventional ways of filmmaking, which is one of many reasons why the film may cater more to older audiences. He captures the local look and color of the era, which is heightened by his choice of sepia tones with his cinematography. While the acting works, the music is what truly makes this film while covering some clear shortcomings. The use of Rahsomon storytelling, the idea of contradicting interpretations, is another great effect. Each of the four boys break the fourth wall by turning to the camera with their versions of the truth throughout the film. Audiences shouldn’t expect the glitz and glam of typical musicals. Jersey Boys is a mixture of hope, melancholy, camaraderie, triumph and defeat. While slow at parts with an unnecessarily long run time, the film is solid and entertaining, especially towards the end.

Frankie, who eventually changes his last name from Castelluccio to the more showbiz-friendly Valli, is the central character. It would have been nice to pull back the zoom for a while and learn more about the other characters too. Speaking of other characters, the kind-hearted mobster Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken, The Power of Few, 2013) was perfectly cast. It’s a shame he didn’t receive more screen time as he adds a bit of humor to his scenes. As Frankie, John Lloyd Young doesn’t master the acting portion, but deserves a standing ‘o’ for his pipes. Young actually won the Tony award for playing Frankie on Broadway.

Young, Piazza, Lomenda and Bergen each play their characters from the teen years into the mid 50s – boys to men, if you will. The makeup and hair are done to perfection.

Jersey Boys’ overall message is clear, success comes from hard work, perseverance and never backing out of a handshake.

Bottom-Line? Jersey Boys hits some of the high notes, but wavers a bit on it’s overall harmony. Four Seasons’ fans will not be disappointed as many of their chart toppers are scattered throughout. This bio-drama is certainly entertaining and more convenient to see than on stage, but the Broadway version still reigns supreme.

Cast: John Llyod Young (Frankie Valli), Vincent Piazza (Tommy DeVito), Steve Schirripa (Vito), Christopher Walken (Gyp DeCarlo), Michael Lomenda (Nick Massi), Erich Bergen (Bob Gaudio), Renee Marino (Mary)

Credits: Directed by Clint Eastwood; Written by Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice

Studio: Warner Bros.

Run Time: 134 minutes

Jessica Aymond © June 22,  2014