Jersey Boys has
enjoyed enormous popularity on stage around the world, largely because the hit
songs made famous by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons are so utterly enjoyable.
The screen adaptation, by playwrights Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, is somewhat
darker in tone than the show, but retains the key ingredients that have made it
so successful: a rags-to-riches tale with glimpses behind the scenes of the
music business. I never thought this was the stuff of great drama, but I like a
good show-biz underdog story as much as anyone, and I do love those songs. The
result is pretty well irresistible.
As director, Clint Eastwood doesn’t impose himself on the material; he lets it stand on its own two feet, aided and abetted by production designer James J. Murakami and cinematographer Tom Stern. The evocation of working-class New Jersey in the 1950s may be a bit rose-colored, but it seems to suit the picture.
John Lloyd Young, who won a Tony Award for his portrayal of Frankie Valli, reprises the role with complete conviction and credibility. Rooting interest is essential and he wins us over in the opening scenes, addressing the camera along with his costars. The other members of the Four Seasons have worked in various incarnations of the play, and slip into their roles with ease: Vincent DiPiazza, Erich Bergen, and Michael Lomenda.
It’s a special treat to watch Christopher Walken in the role of a local mob boss who takes a fatherly interest in Frankie, which comes in handy more than once. He adds a note of effortless grace to the film and never steps over the line into caricature.
the strains of “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” and “Walk Like a Man” don’t do
anything for you, you may not have the built-in affection for Jersey Boys as baby boomers like me…but
there’s a decent chance this likable film will win you over.