Film Review by Kam Williams
Clint Eastwood Turns Tony-Winning Play into Scintillating Spectacular!
Francesco Castelluccio (John Lloyd Young) was born on the wrong side of the tracks of Newark, New Jersey where he was raised in a public housing project controlled by the mob. As a rebellious adolescent, he started hanging out with hoodlums in his Italian neighborhood, over the objections of his mother (Kathrine Narducci) who feared her son was either going to wind up dead or in jail.
But despite eventually getting busted for burglary, he managed to evade imprisonment at 16 when a lenient judge let him off with just a stern warning. His saving grace, ultimately, would be that distinctive falsetto that in 1962 catapulted him to the heights of superstardom as Frankie Valli, the high-pitched front man of The Four Seasons.
His meteoric rise, self-destruction and resurrection are the subject of Jersey Boys, a scintillating spectacular with a jukebox soundtrack featuring all of the group’s hits. Directed by Academy Award-winner Clint Eastwood (for Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby), the entertaining biopic is based on the play of the same name which won a quartet of Tonys in 2006, including Best Musical.
The picture stars Tony-winner John Lloyd Young (for Best Actor in a Musical) who originated the role of Frankie Valli on Broadway. The rest of The Four Seasons are played by Erich Bergen as Bob Gaudio, Vincent Piazza as Tommy DeVito, and Michael Lomenda as Nick Mazzi.
Other pivotal cast members include Renee Marino as Frankie’s long-suffering wife, Freya Tingley as his equally-neglected daughter, and Joey Russo as his childhood pal Joe Pesce (yes, that Joe Pesce). And Oscar-winner Christopher Walken (for The Deer Hunter) steals his every scene as usual as Angelo “Gyp” DeCarlo, the Mafia don who ran the Genovese crime family’s loan sharking operations back in the Sixties.
Nevertheless, the real appeal of the movie rests in the tunes, whose derivations are often implied or expressly explained. For example, Bob was ostensibly inspired to compose “Big Girls Don’t Cry” after watching Kirk Douglas slap Jan Sterling in the face in the film, Ace in the Hole.
The cast, here, performs all the songs themselves, from “Sherry” to “Dawn” to “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” to “Rag Doll” to “Who Loves You?” to “Working My Way Back to You” to “Walk Like a Man” to “Oh, What a Night!” and beyond. Who knew The Four Seasons had so many hits?
A nostalgic trip down Memory Lane designed with Baby Boomers in mind.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for pervasive profanity
Running time: 134 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers