Let's hang on to what we've got?
Film Review © 2014 by Trip Reynolds
Directed by Clint Eastwood; Screenplay by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice; Musical Book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Rice. Produced by Clint Eastwood, Tim Headington, Graham King, and Robert Lorenz. Executive Producers include Bob Gaudio, Tim Moore, James Packer, Brett Ratner, and Frankie Valli. Production executive, Denis O'Sullivan.
Starring: John Lloyd Young (as Four Season memer, Frankie Valli), Vincent Piazza (as Four Season member, Tommy DeVito), Erich Bergen (as Four Season member, Bob Gaudio), Michael Lomenda (as Four Season member, Nick Massi), Christopher Walken (as Gyp DeCarlo), Steve Schirripa (as Vito); Katherine Narducci (Frankie's Mother), Lou Volpe (Frankie's Father), Johnny Cannizzaro (as Nick DeVito), Michael Patrick McGill (as Officer Mike), Joseph Russo (as Joe "Joey" Pesci), Jacqueline Mazarella (as Angry Woman), Lacey Hannan (as Angela), Renée Marino (as Mary Delgado, Frankie Valli's wife), and a host of others.
Like many people of my generation, if you weren't listening to Motown or the British Invasion, you grew up listening to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and my record and CD music collection includes nearly everything they recorded; and yes, I've seen the broadway musical, "Jersey Boys." So, yes, I like these guys, but most importantly, I have absolutely no problem being objective in writing this film review.
This is a story about the rise and fall (and the pseudo-rise again) of four guys from the streets of New Jersey who made it big in the music biz'ness back in the 1960s and early 1970s. There are several references to Frank Sinatra in this film, and it makes sense, because Sinatra was born and raised in Hoboken, New Jersey - only 8.5 miles east of the home of Frankie Valli (born Francesco Stephen Castelluccio) and the Four Seasons in Newark, New Jersey. Decades later, Valli and Sinatra became friendly, and Valli suggested that Sinatra work with Bob Gaudio on a concept album project, "Watertown." Although the album was not a great commercial success, it was a creative success.
As with the Broadway musical, the story is told by each member literally breaking the imaginary "fourth wall" and talking directly to the audience about the group's origin, and their first-person anecdotal accounts are both insightful and unbelievable. To form the group, actor Joe Pesci actually introduced Bob Gaudio to Valli, DeVito, and Massi. It would have been interesting if the film uniquely included "fourth wall" comments from Pesci, and especially to wrap-up the film as an epilogue. This is a unique storytelling approach not found in an Clint Eastwood film, but he made it work. Plus, since we know this is a "true" story, we're compelled to see what happened next, and hearing it directly from the "horses mouth" is so much better than hearsay from some off-screen undisclosed third-party.
Anyone familiar with music group bio's broadcast by VH-1 knows that money, drinking/drugs, and sex/women typically bring down most male music groups, but not the Jersey Boys. Nope. Oh, there was money, drinking/drugs, and sex/women for sure. The Four Seasons were making money and becoming very successful. For the most part, women were protrayed in a positive light, as with Renée Marino who commandingly took centerstage as Frankie Valli's wife, Mary, but it's blatant deceit from within the group that ultimately lead to the downfall of the Four Seasons. Throughout the film, Eastwood gives the audience an exclusive view of the group's demise by shooting key scenes from a bird's eye camera view. So, we're looking down from above as we watch vignette after vignette of how Tommy DeVito's association with organized crime literally prevented the group from realizing its ultimate potential. Then, Eastwood gives us midrange and close-up shots of Frankie Valli being a stand-up guy, and forcing the group to take the financial "hit" that resulted from DeVito's deceit. Watching the musical, you get a "wow" moment when you think about Frankie Valli's decision to burden himself with so much debt, and you get the same reaction watching the film. Again, wow! The Four Season's hit song, "Walk Like A Man" is truly appropriate in this regard. If only Valli and Gaudio could have jettisoned DeVito and worked with Sinatra earlier in their careers, perhaps, they could have been much more successful. Keep in mind, even though many people fondly think about the early 1960s with memories of Elvis Presley, Motown, and the British Invasion Frank Sinatra received the Grammy for Album of the Year in 1960 for "Come Dance with Me!" and in 1966 for "September of My Years," and in 1967 for "A Man and His Music." Plus, Sinatra (not the Beatles, not Michael Jackson, not Madonna, etc.) has the most nominations for Record of the Year for an artist and a male artist with seven nominations; and in 1967 Sinatra received the Record of the Year Award for "Strangers In The Night."
The film mirrors many elements of the musical but without embracing plagiarism. Many of the actors, like John Lloyd Young as Frankie Valli (who's voice is adequate, but isn't as powerful as the "real" Frankie Valli) and Renée Marino as Valli's wife, also appeared in the stage musicals, but their acting performances here are better; perhaps because unlike the stage, film provides actors with close-ups, and the opportunity to reveal more emotional content, and the backstory here is filled with emotional content. Without being overbearing, Renée Marino steals every scene she's in.
Directed by Clint Eastwood, really? An Eastwood musical, and it's not the 1969 film, "Paint Your Wagon," really?? Our collective curiousity about Eastwood helming this film is best answered with the film's music video finale! Wow!!! Who knew?!!
As expected with Clint Eastwood behind the helm, film has a nicely paced running length of 134 minutes. Film editing by Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach is tight. Cinematography by Tom Stern captured the era and atmosphere, as did the Art Direction by Patrick M. Sullivan and Costume Design by Deborah Hopper.
Recommendation: See this film; you'll enjoy it!