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Jersey Boys - Film Review

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by Melissa Duffy (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer based in Melbourne.
Published June 29th 2014
Jersey Boys Movie Review
After the successful run of Jersey Boys on the stage, the story of 60's group The Four Seasons has been adapted for the screen by Academy Award-winning director Clint Eastwood.

Jersey Boys
Jersey Boys

Minus the movie star makeover that the likes of Chicago and Les Miserables received, three of the four main characters have been cast straight from the stage show. John Lloyd Young as Frankie Valli reprises his Tony award winning Broadway role along with Erich Bergen as songwriter Bob Gaudio and Michael Lomenda as bass player Nick Massi. However the stand out performances are that of Vincent Piazza (Boardwalk Empire, Law & Order, The Sopranos) as lead guitarist Tommy DeVito, and the ever quirky Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter, Catch Me If You Can) as mob figure Angelo "Gyp" DeCarlo who both have greater presence on the big screen.

Clint Eastwood and cast of Jersey Boys
Clint Eastwood and cast of Jersey Boys

Eastwood's focus is on the story of the group's humble beginnings from the tough New Jersey projects and links to the mob. Teenager Frankie tries to stay out of trouble training as a barber by day and singing by night, however, his friend Tommy is never far from anything that just happens to fall off the back of a truck. This sees him spend a little time on the inside and later rack up a few too many debts on the outside. Years of playing the lounge circuit, numerous name changes and performing as back-up singers eventually pay off when record producer and songwriter Bob Crewe (played by Mike Doyle) demands a hit and Bob Gaudio responds with their first number one, "Sherry".

It's an exploration of the behind the scenes struggle that comes with fame and its impact on their friendship and eventual split. The group's wives and children always came second behind the music and Eastwood seeks our compassion, yet they are given little screen time for the viewer to have really connected with them.

For those perhaps too young to remember The Four Seasons, this adaptation barely alludes to the band's international success. The fact they have sold over 100 million records is only mentioned as a mere fleeting comment, yet this was a group whose hits continued to chart well through the arrival of The Beatles.
The Four Seasons with Frankie Valli
The Four Seasons with Frankie Valli

In a 2008 interview with The London Telegraph, Frankie Valli recalled, "We never went away. We maintained a presence through the seventies, eighties, nineties, all the way up to right now."

Their chart-topping success in the 60's included hits "Sherry" (#1), Big Girls Don't Cry" (#1), "Walk Like a Man (#1), "Rag Doll" (#1) and "Working My Way Back to You" (#9). Followed by Valli's solo hits like "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" in 1967 (#2), "My Eyes Adored You" in 1975 (#1) and who could forget the title track to one of the most successful movie soundtracks, "Grease", which also went to number one in 1978. The band's comeback track "December 1963 (Oh What a Night)" reached number one in 1976, written by Bob Gaudio about the loss of his virginity.
Frankie Valli (2013)
Frankie Valli (2013)

The casting of John Lloyd Young to play Valli at age 16 right up to nearly 60 has you questioning at times which decade you are watching, left to decipher from the widening of a shirt lapel or change in a band member's facial hair.

Memorable scenes of Valli's incredible trademark falsetto using the acoustics provided by the local church they had broken into, or when the group is huddled around a piano jamming with their newly hired fourth member and song writer Bob Gaudio will leave viewers wanting more.

But there are not enough of these magical musical moments, with most of your cinema toe tapping coming from the last 15 minutes of the film where Eastwood finally honours the musical genre. But at least you will be singing along through the closing credits.
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Why? Sing along with one of the 60's great doo-wop groups
Where: At a cinema near you
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