Jersey Boys will delight most baby boomers. The music is terrific! John Lloyd Young does not look or sound exactly like Frankie Valli, but he can hit the high falsetto notes and deliver the goods.
Jersey Boys is not a definitive biopic. It’s the movie version of a stage musical. The script is by the same guys who wrote the book for the stage version.
Jersey Boys begins slowly with brief samples of Frankie’s singing and brushes with the law. It takes a a while before the Four Seasons sing their first hit “Sherry.” From that point on, Four Seasons hit songs come along at frequent intervals and all the performances are strong.
The other Four Seasons are Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda) and Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen). The addition of Gaudio, the songwriter, is a key episode of the group’s formative years.
Tommy considers himself the group leader. Unfortunately, he mismanages the group’s finances and gets them into trouble with the mob. Shady father figure “Gyp” DeCarlo (Christopher Walken) provides guidance to the group through the crisis.
Another crisis involves Frankie’s estranged daughter Francine (Freya Tingley) who dies of a drug overdose, which supposedly leads him to record “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” as a solo project. (In real life, the song was a hit in the summer of 1967 and Francine didn’t die until 1980. Extreme dramatic license, I’d say.) Young’s performance of the song, starting in a studio and switching to supper club is a highlight.
In Jersey Boys, each group member breaks the 4th wall and speaks directly to the audience at various points in the movie. This device may have worked better on stage. In director Clint Eastwood’s movie version, while it may move the narrative along, it diminishes the reality of what’s onscreen.
Speaking of Eastwood, the movie contains one of my favorite director cameos of all time. (That’s all I’ll say. A tease, yes, but no spoiler.)
The closing number of Jersey Boys, a street dance performance of “Oh, What A Night” is the perfect finish for a movie that is to be enjoyed for its music. And, as mentioned, the music is terrific!