Eastwood's Jersey Boys Walk Like Jersey Men

Eastwood's <i>Jersey Boys</i> Walk Like Jersey Men
Keith Bernstein
Frankie Valli (Young) and Tommy DeVito (Piazza) square off in Jersey Boys.

If you think summer movies are clamorous, try a current Broadway musical. Watching Jersey Boys onstage is like soldiering through some extreme-eating contest where you're force-fed dessert for three hours. It's all falsetto heroics and hustled-through character drama, every beat of every scene overscored, overrehearsed, and overbearing. And it's often glorious, even as the sugar-rush of "Sherry" chills and hardens into a brain freeze.

The performances are tough-minded and idiosyncratic, especially Piazza's DeVito.

At the end, when the original Four Seasons reunite at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Frankie Valli launches into a tender midsong monologue to tell us what moment of his storied career meant the most to him over the years. The best? "Four guys under a street lamp, when it was all still ahead of us, the first time we made that sound — our sound." The tweet-sized speech, written by Rick Elice and Marshall Brickman, is terrifically moving. But here's the thing: The Broadway show never even slowed down long enough to show us that street-lamp moment or the discovery of that sound. As the Valli character reminisced, I thought, "Man, I'd love to see a musical about that."

Clint Eastwood's likable film of Jersey Boys doesn't have time for that moment either. Still, Eastwood's metabolism saps along at about half the rate of a Broadway director's, and he's not about to play jaunty reprises between each scene. That saves the movie. Rather than an assault, it's a parade of expertly staged (if often familiar) moments that on occasion do something the stage version never attempts: feel a little bit like life as humans live it, or at least like life as it is in old movies. Then, at healthy intervals, John Lloyd Young (the Tony winner who originated the Valli role on Broadway) uncorks that falsetto, and the gush of pleasure washes away the film's minor infelicities.

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Details

Jersey Boys, starring John Lloyd Young, Erich Bergen, Michael Lomenda, Vincent Piazza, Christopher Walken, Mike Doyle, and Renee Marino. Directed by Clint Eastwood. Written by Marshall Brickman and Rich Elice.

Eastwood knows a trick Broadway forgot once ticket prices hit triple digits: Leave 'em wanting more. He also has a feel for street toughs and their prickly pride, anchoring early scenes of street crime and bar life with welcome weight. Their misadventures feel scrappy and desperate, and the rifts that spread within the band as they start racking up number ones — mostly fights over girls and money — come to feel momentous. Two of the Four Seasons were dedicated pop-music craftsmen; two were regular guys from the neighborhood chafing at being outclassed.

Eastwood's best sequence is a lengthy meeting between the boys, a Jersey Mob boss played by Christopher Walken, and the loan shark that band founder Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) owes $162,000. It's a one-act rich with preening alphas, wounded egos, terrible revelations, several big reversals, a hilarious explosion from the quietest Season (Michael Lomenda), and a rousing declaration from Young's Valli, who manages to take over the band and honor his debts to DeVito and the old neighborhood all at the same time. At the height of the group's fame, Valli winds up on his own, touring relentlessly to pay back an impossible sum he feels he owes to the folks who gave him a shot. It plays like a gangland parody of today's student loan racket.

Eastwood doesn't have the running time to treat all the significant events so thoroughly. The misery of Valli's road-warrior life is only briefly dramatized. The family drama, including a late tragedy, is skimmed over, as are the details of the singer's lifelong partnership with songwriter Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen), the boy wonder behind "Short Shorts" and the last to join the original Four Seasons. Gaudio was also the only member of the group with no criminal past, the only one with any business savvy, and the only one not from a strictly working-class background, all of which Bergen suggests in his every scene and all of which sets off DeVito.

The film retains the show's multinarrator structure, which casts a different Jersey Boy as our guide for each act, sometimes explaining their motivations right into the camera. But Eastwood doesn't fully commit to the conceit, allowing long stretches to pass without narration. This sows some confusion: When one of the boys starts talking to someone offscreen, you might think he's delivering a monologue. Also distracting: the occasional too-cute moment straight from the stage show, as when Valli and Gaudio knock on doors in a Brill Building hallway apparently modeled on the set of Laugh-In — behind each lurks a keyed-up comic actor ready to pounce.

But the performances are tough-minded and idiosyncratic, especially Piazza's DeVito, a bullying prick who, for all his nasty quirks — blowing his nose on hotel towels, for one — touches some universal pathos: the sadness of the cocksure also-ran, the local hero not built to cut it on the world stage. Young's Valli grows from horny schlemiel to confident master, and his singing is glorious, especially as his material richens as the '60s grind over him.

In the end, that sound is what soars most. If you have any love for it, Jersey Boys should steamroll right over you, especially the climactic revelation of "Can't Take My Eyes Off You," a grown-up hit that eschews the old sugar rush in favor of sublimity. Eastwood may never show us his boys discovering themselves under that street lamp, but he gives us a clutch of moments worth treasuring — and mostly without overdoing it.

 
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2 comments
itsmrjakefromstatefa
itsmrjakefromstatefa

....Could. "Clint" Eastwood. Possibly Be Competing With "Captain Kutchie

Pelaez" For The Position Of "The World's Most Interesting Man"..

Perhaps?...But Then Again Perhaps He Is Just Waiting For "Kutchie Pelaez

and Frankie Valli" To "Make His Day"!...Ha, Go Figure!....

….We

Heard A Few Years Back That Megyn Kelly Of Fox News, Really Loved Her

Some Of Captain Kutchie’s And Anita Pelaez’s Famous Key Lime Pies! Could

That Make Megyn “The Most Interesting Lady In The World?….I Guess "NO"

On That One, That One Would Have To Be "The Lovely --Mrs. Anita Pelaez"

The Queen Of The Key Lime Pie World!

….I sure hope that this will be a great opportunity for everyone to

see some of “Don Rickle's Scenes” from his productions of his classic hits

“Tales From Kutcharitaville”. You Do know that Don Rickles and Johnny Carson

together produced those comedy hits about their friend “Mr. Kutchie

Pelaez” and their wild and crazy exploits of Kutchie’s Key West and The

World of Key Lime Pies from the perspective of (Johnny Carson, Don

Rickles, Kutchie Pelaez and Steve Martins Eyes!) What a Hoot Those

Classic Hits Surely Were. Don’t miss them, be sure to tune-in next

month. We Laughed Until We Cried Watching Those Funny Movies. “The Tales

From Kutcharitaville”, I Think That They May Still Be Available In A

Boxed Set. Maybe Try Amazon. Good Luck.

You Know, It’s No Wonder That Everyone Calls “Captain Kutchie

Pelaez”..The Most Interesting Man In The World! Did You Know That

Kutchie Drinks Those Wonderful Mixed Drinks Named In His Honor Called

“Kutcharitas”.?. There A Hell Of A Lot Better Than Any Mexican Beers.

And Much Stronger To Boot!

….That Sunken Ship In The News These Days,

….It’s Been Resting Down On The Bottom Of The Sea Since Way Back In

1857, “Mel Fisher” Even Overlooked That One! “Yankee Jack and Micheal

McCloud Now Have Reason To Write Another Song.

….Hell, We Can’t Find A Boeing 777 That’s Been Lost Only A Little Over

A Few Months Now! Could It Be Because The Jet Had No Silver and Gold Aboard,

Just People?….Go Figure……

….Good Thing That All The ….(“Anita And Kutchie Pelaez’s Key West Key

Lime Pie Shops”)..Are All Showing Increasing Pie Sales Throughout All

They’re Areas Of Distribution. Consumers Just Never Seem To Reach

They’re Fill Of Those “Yummy Key Lime Pies” That The “Peleaz’s Working

Partner Team” Continues To Produce. They Have Been Called “Love At First

Bite”. Everyone Agrees, That The Loving Couple Have Been Baking They’re

Culinary Delectables Over 40-Years Now!….Isn’t She

Wonderful?….”AAAHHHH”, The Magic Of The Gorgeous “Mrs. Anita Pelaez”

Well She Is Something Else!….

….Who The Hell Does That “Kutchie Pelaez” Think That He Is?….”Frankie Valli” Or Someone Like That?

….It’s No Wonder That People Are All Calling Him “The Most Interesting Man In The World”,…Big Girls Don’t Cry…Do They?….

….Don’t Cha Just Love Em!?….We Sure Do!….It is A Well Known Fact
That "Captain Kutchie Pelaez" Knows Who Put The Bomp In The Bomp Shoo
Bomp Shoo Bomp And The Rama In The Rama Lama Ding Dong!.He Even Knows
Who Put The Dip In The Dip Da Dip Da Dip!...How Cool Is That?....

....a-good-1-4-u-2-n-joy-ok!..."Very Interesting"!....

...."Frankie Valli and Kutchie Pelaez"..Did Make-It As Big As "Frank Sanatra".

...."Yeah"
A Few Wise Guys They Certainly Were "Frankie Valli, Kutchie Pelaez and
Joe Pesci"!....Together "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight"!.....
....Mafiosi Wanna-Bee's. The Key Lime Pie "Wild Bunch". They've Got Everyone Shaking In They're Flip-Flops!....

....Eli, Be Careful, Don't Eat The "Cannoli's"!...They're Killer!....

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