In the 1950’s, a group of young men from Belleville, NJ (near Newark) came together to form The Four Seasons, the popular rock group of top hits such as “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” and “Walk Like a Man.” We first meet singer/guitarist Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) who explains that there are only three ways out of their neighborhood: the army, the mob, or fame. They got out through the latter two, though as the movie shows, they never really leave.
Most of the film is focused on Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young). He starts as a 16-year-old training to be a barber who then becomes the lead singer of The Four Seasons and goes through several hardships along the way (divorce, betrayal, loss). Young certainly impressed me with his superb goosebump-inducing falsetto. His acting had a lot to be desired, and it was blatantly obvious that he’s more of a theater actor. Not surprisingly, he won a Tony in 2006 for his portrayal of Valli on Broadway.
In fact, Jersey Boys, under the direction of Clint Eastwood, had too much Broadway style and severely lacked in movie quality. Instead of delving deeper into the story of Frankie’s life, songs are played out in their entirety, taking up way too much film time. In one scene, Frankie tries to resolve conflict between himself and his daughter, Francine. He gets her a record deal, but then in the next scene she has committed suicide. Frankie and Francine’s story could have been so much richer and provoking if they had spent more time on it. That’s just one instance of several where exploring more of the story would have enhanced the music.
A quick aside—the makeup department really failed on this one. Apparently making characters look younger and older was not their forte.
Christopher Walken portrayed Gyp DeCarlo, a mob boss and friend of The Four Seasons. Walken is great, though his performance is more representative of himself than a mobster. As the rest of the cast is full of lesser-known performers, perhaps Eastwood should have done the same for Gyp. Or perhaps he should have dipped into the cast of Goodfellas or The Sopranos.
The connection between The Four Seasons and Joe Pesci was interesting. Pesci grew up in Belleville and he was a friend of DeVito (hence why his name is Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas). If he hadn’t introduced Tommy to Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen), the band probably wouldn’t exist.
To end on a high note (ah—see what I did there?), the music did shine bright, with the incredible voices of Tommy, Frankie, Bob, and Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda). Bergen and Lomenda were also part of the Broadway version. The choreography and soft lighting transported you back to the 60’s for a time. The film is worth renting for the music alone.