John Lloyd Young has been practicing his falsetto.
Before seeing Clint Eastwood’s Jersey Boys, I knew little about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. I recalled their poppy hit “Sherry” and with it imagined teenager girls in poodle skirts sipping milkshakes and leaning over a jukebox. That goes to show you how much this millennial baby knows about the transition of pop culture from the 1950s to 1962, the year “Sherry” was released. But Jersey Boys, didn’t just match up The Four Seasons name with their other hits and clarify a time frame for me. It provided a rich account of the group’s darker side, Clint Eastwood style. (As a side note keep your eye out for him, he sneaks an Alfred Hitchcock-esque cameo somewhere in the film.)
Jersey Boys takes off in Belleville, New Jersey in the year 1951. It follows the band’s greaser punk beginnings around the streets of the north Jersey town, their father-son relationship with the Italian Mafioso Gyp, (Christopher Walken) and of course their music, revered for Frankie Valli’s (John Lloyd Young) salient falsetto. The pace of the film mimics the goings-on of The Four Seasons. When the crew has a run in with the local cops, who continually remind Frankie that he’s supposed to be home at 11, the movie is moving … and the audience is laughing. When their luck picks up and “Sherry” hits the charts— you revel in their success. But there are some slow moments, when the band is waiting or walking (often in jail). If these scenes had been cut, the movie would have kept more of my attention.
It is obvious that the film is an adaptation of the Broadway play Jersey Boys. It’s theatrical, abundant with soliloquies that are dominated by lead guitarist and “man in charge,” Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) and it is dramatic — even John Lloyd Young’s voice is a dramatization of Frankie Valli’s. But it is the drama that plays out between Tommy and the group, which make for some of the best scenes of the film. I honestly was most captivated when the band breaks up.
Despite the sometimes slow pace of the film, the flash and flair of The Four Seasons’ patent leather shoes, synchronized dance moves and hits like “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Working My Way Back to You,” and “Oh What a Night,” were an entertaining tribute. And don’t get me wrong — I have been belting “Can’t Take My Eyes off of You,” in the shower every morning this week.