I knew that reviewing Jersey Boys wasn’t going to be easy. As I’ve talked about before, I have deep seeded emotional ties to the Broadway show and the music and all of that. (Ugh, that sounds so high school theatre kid. I apologize!) So, there was always going to be an underlying, “But I love this so much,” to how I saw this movie.
And I do. I love it so much. There’s so much that’s right about this movie that it almost dwarfs the things that are wrong with it. There are things that just don’t work, but it transcends, because in the end, who doesn’t want to imagine that this is how this actually happened you know?
Anyway, Jersey Boys is the story of The Four Seasons, as told through several fourth wall breaking monologues and obviously, their music. We start with Tommy DeVito, the self proclaimed founder of the group who discovered little Francis Castilucio, who would change his name and become Frankie Valli. On stage, I remember Tommy being sort of abrasive and unlikeable in a vague way. Vincent Piazza, who plays him in the movie as a malevolent asshole. Why would anyone be around this guy? He’s awful. But, it’s a truly transcendent performance. Tommy uses his connections an bullying personality to get “The Three Lovers” pretty far in the Jersey Club scene, but also winds up in jail a couple of times.
Up next in the line up is Bob Guadio, who wrote along with producer Bob Crewe most of the hit songs you love from The Four Seasons. The difference between Bobby and the other guys is pretty pronounced. He was younger and came from Bergenfield rather than Belleville. Sorry, if you don’t know Jersey geography, it’s hard to explain the difference, but it’s a massive one. He also does not take one ounce of Tommy’s shit. From their first meeting he is in control of his destiny. When Bobby and Frankie start their “side deal,” the legendary handshake partnership that would define them, it’s because Bob knows that everything they’re doing depends on “The Voice.” Erich Bergen doesn’t bring the baby face, like whoever I saw on Broadway, but he does a good job of playing the evolving boy genius to savvy business man and serious artist.
Nick Massi, the group’s bass player, might have been my favorite part of the movie. The guy who was just always in the background, and his monologues, feel the most true, because they’re so mundane and frank. His final freak out at Tommy of his use of hotel room towels is insanely satisfying and wonderfully performed by Michael Lomenda. Also, his bass voice is a really necessity to making the music work. That “why don’t you come out?” on “Sherry” is as important to the hook of the song as Frankie’s falsetto.
And then there’s John Lloyd Young’s Frankie Valli. I’m good friends with a guy who should be playing Frankie Valli on Broadway, and in the orbit of the guy who handles the national tour. I love both of these men very, very much, and they are very, very talented. But John Lloyd Young owns Frankie Valli in a very visceral way. There are few things that give me chills the way the title of this post, as the last spoken lines of Jersey Boys do. But also, his rendition of “My Eyes Adored You,” is, to crib from Mr. Sondheim, “almost like praying.” And with nearly a decade of playing this role under his belt, it’s not hard to see why Clint Eastwood kept him around for the movie. I remember crying when he won his Tony and he thanked his father. I remember being stunned sitting in a theatre as he sang “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You,” and this time, on film, I remember being blow away by what a great actor he is.
Christopher Walken plays the mob boss who adopted the group and is wonderful as always. Parts of the movie are clumsy, things that worked on stage that don’t really work on film, etc. The music is, of course wonderful. I didn’t love the change in the ending. (Obviously, the story ended the same way, with the boys being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.) But the show then launches into a beautiful full cast rendition of “Who Loves You.” The movie deaged the boys for “Who Loves You,” but then launched into an Acapella version of “Sherry” (fine, kind of cool.) And then transferred into a full cast version of “Oh What A Night (December, 1963).”
Now, look, it’s generally the best part of a wedding when “Oh What A Night” comes on. Everyone dances, and sings and it’s frickin great! But it’s not as poetically or thematically resonant as “Who Loves You,” for this particular story. Then the original recording of “Sherry” plays over the credits, which awesome.
But all in all, I really enjoyed the movie. There’s too much good in the bones of Jersey Boys, for it to get too screwed up. It’s just all about chasing that music, man, trying to get home.
Rankings! (We’re start to rack them up you guys! It’s exciting!)
- Godzilla (still the top man! I loved this movie!)
- X-Men: Days of Future Past
- Jersey Boys
- The Amazing Spider-Man 2
When The Game Stands Tall: How did I not know they were making a movie about De La Salle? Oh my God! I’ve tuned out of so many conversations about that team…but I’m still going to love it. I love football movies.
The Judge: This movie is going to make me cry. It’s just going to.
This Is Where I Leave You: Ditto. Also, Jason Bateman, Tina Fey and Adam Driver as siblings? Hello, best movie ever!
There were others, but I don’t remember them.