Monday, June 23, 2014

Jersey Boys

Clint Eastwood’s film of the jukebox musical “Jersey Boys” is the definitive telling of the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, richer because Eastwood takes the time to develop each man’s character (in the stage show, they’re largely indistinguishable).

I also like that Marshall Brickman’s script draws several sharp roles for women – supporting players, to be sure, but (with the exception of songwriter and keyboardist Bob Gaudio) the wisest and most honest people in the picture. Most important, Eastwood shows respect for the music by letting each song play in its entirety (including several reprises); there’s no sampling or medleys or (God forbid) montages. The result is a well-made entertainment with real wit (the lead-ins to the songs are especially clever). Its up-the-middle RT score mystifies; my audience gave it hearty applause.

Erich Bergen as Gaudio is first among equals in the excellent cast, which also features Vincent Piazza as guitarist Tommy De Vito, Frankie's best friend from the neighborhood, and Michael Lomenda as the bassist Nick Massi. If anyone, John Lloyd Young as Frankie is an occasional weak link, far better at showing the sweet kid in Valli than the inebriate and reprobate. Christopher Walken, the only name actor in the cast, has a lot of fun with the part of "Gyp" DeCarlo, the made man who protects Valli ever after hearing him sing "My Mother's Eyes." None of the underworld loan-sharking or backstage infighting breaks new ground - and Frankie's daughter dies way too abruptly to have any emotional impact on us - but Eastwood keeps the movie toe-tapping to the beat of its great American sound, and ends with a special closing credit sequence that's worth staying for. 

A word must be said about Michelle Vittone's makeup. I wrote of the makeup in Eastwood's "J. Edgar," in which Hoover and his lover Cldye Tolson aged several decades, that the Razzie for Worst Makeup should be renamed in its honor and permanently retired. For the closing scene in "Jersey Boys," which lurches ahead to the Four Seasons' 1990 Hall of Fame enshrinement, Vittone performs the same embalming and powdering, to the same laugh-out-loud effect. Either Eastwood hires the worst makeup artists in Hollywood, or he truly has no idea how human beings age.

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