Movie Review: Jersey Boys
During the rise of the musical quartet, the Four Seasons sing “Big Man in Town,” all about the thirst to be a somebody — a successful, hyper-masculine figure who demands success and respect.
“Oh, I’m going to make it — just wait and see,” the band members — Tommy DeVito, Frankie Valli, Nick Massi, and Bob Gaudio — sing harmoniously.
Out of the 25 full songs that “Jersey Boys” features, it is this song that best captures the vision of this movie. A biographical film based on the hit Broadway musical of the same name, “Jersey Boys” is about the rise (and eventual fall) of the Four Seasons, a 1950s New Jersey based rock band.
As the title would suggest, the film starts out in New Jersey, home of the Italian American mafia, in a neighborhood that one could only escape one of three ways: join the mob, join the Army, or become famous. However, some of those lines are blurred, as Tommy DeVito discovers. Childhood friends DeVito, Valli — a stage name, changed from Castelluccio — and Massi are all involved in the local crime scene in some way or another, DeVito and Massi even serving time in jail. However, they realize that the band is their way out of the neighborhood.
Eventually getting serious about their act, they recruit an already somewhat successful Gaudio as their fourth member, leading to the formation of the Four Seasons. From there, the film chronicles the rapid rise of the group — and the painstakingly slow fall, leading to an explosive dissolution of the group.
The leading actors do a great job with their roles, likely because they were all reprising their roles from the off Broadway musical, however, they didn’t know each other — they each toured at different times. Vincent Piazza, who played DeVito, did an extraordinary job of capturing a complex character, a seedy criminal who is somehow still likeable.
The same can be said about John Lloyd Young, who played Valli, as he portrays an essentially moral character struggling to balance fame and family. Don’t discount Michael Lomenda or Erich Bergen, who play Massi and Gaudio. All performances were more than solid, leaving the audience sharing their highs and their lows, and making the optimistic ending that much sweeter.
By no means would this movie pass the Bechdel test — the women in this film are minor characters at best, and are used only to further the plotline of the four main men. There is even a scene where members of the Four Seasons laugh at a woman being hit on television, leading to a hit song, “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” However, that much is to be expected from the Clint Eastwood directed and produced film, focusing on hypermasculinity and the journey of the men themselves.
All in all, the journey of the Four Seasons is a compelling one, which explains the success of the Broadway musical and the sure success of the movie. While “Jersey Boys” runs a little long at 134 minutes, the solid emotional story is compelling enough to where audiences will be solidly entertained for the duration.
“Oh, What a Night,” indeed.
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