Santa Cruz Good Times

Friday
Aug 28th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Baby Got Backstory

fm jerseyToo much plot can't stop the music in Clint Eastwood’s ‘Jersey Boys’

Director Clint Eastwood makes no attempt to disguise the stage origins of Jersey Boys, his film adaptation of the hit Broadway musical. Why would he? The “jukebox musical” built around the music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons was a huge hit when it debuted in 2005, won four Tonys (including Best Musical), continues to be a hot ticket on Broadway nine years later, and has spawned dozens of popular touring productions around the world.

Eastwood is a pro; he knows better than to fool around with success. To his enormous credit, he opted against casting movie stars and instead
cast alumni from various stage productions of the show (including Tony-winner John Lloyd Young, who originated the role of Frankie Valli on Broadway) as three of the Four Seasons in his film. Not only do these guys know their characters inside out, they can all sing like the dickens (Young's Valli-worthy falsetto is particularly impressive). Eastwood then had the freedom to shoot their musical numbers live (instead of recording their vocals separately and looping them into the soundtrack), bringing an extra layer of immediacy and verve to the songs.

So the movie sounds great. And even the revue-style stage device of having the characters occasionally pause in the middle of the action (sometimes in the middle of a song) to talk to the audience works most of the time, as a way to keep the narrative going forward.

But ultimately, there proves to be more backstory than the film can comfortably handle, not only individual character biographies (as sketchy as they often are), but also in the story arc of the group as a whole—from rags to riches to its final implosive breakup.

Still, it's the nature of the biopic to rush through a lot of material, especially when the biographies are multiplied by four. Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, who wrote the book for the stage show, also adapt the story for the screen, and they keep things pretty lively early on. In Belleville, N.J., 1951, teenage Frankie is working in a barbershop. His buddy, Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) runs errands for the local mob boss (a terrific Christopher Walken), and when he's not knocking over jewelry stores or doing jail time, he has a little part-time band. Piazza is the only member of the onscreen quartet who wasn’t cherry-picked out of a stage production, and he delivers a breakout performance as cocky wannabe-player Tommy.

Frankie is invited to join Tommy and bass player Nicky Massi (Michael Lomenda). A friend suggests Bob Gaudio (an engaging Erich Bergen), a keyboardist and budding songwriter, who's inspired to write for Frankie's voice. They can barely scrape up the cash to cut a demo, but after they meet producer Bob Crewe (Mike Doyle) at the Brill Building in New York City, they soar to the top of the charts on a string of Gaudio/Crewe hits like “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don't Cry,” and “Walk Like A Man.” But ultimately, the stress of the road, friction between the guys, and Tommy’s astounding debts to the mob scuttle the group.

As the narrative progresses into these less fun parts of the tale, large sections of the storytelling feel inert, and some key moments get short shrift. When we first meet Mary (Renée Marino), the future Mrs. Valli, she’s a pretty hot number, vamping Frankie in a bar, and giving him savvy advice. The next time we see her, years later, she’s an unhappy drunk, but her story is never told. Ditto their daughter, Francine, a sweet little cherub in one scene, a runaway teen in the next. It becomes a major plot point that she's a great singer, even better than her dad, but it’s news to the audience; we never hear her sing so much as a nursery rhyme.

Toward the end, Frankie tells the others the best time was when the four of them were harmonizing together on a street corner, but it's a moment that was not shown earlier. Eastwood tries to compensate with a crowd-pleasing Bollywood-style finale, which confirms that, even given the intimacy of film, Jersey Boys is still all about the music.


JERSEY BOYS **1/2 With John Lloyd Young, Vincent Piazza, Erich Bergen, Michael Lomenda, and Christopher Walken. Written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice. Directed by Clint Eastwood. A Warner Bros. release. Rated R. 134 minutes.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

The Meaning of ‘LIFE’

With a new documentary film about his work, and huge exhibits on both coasts, acclaimed Santa Cruz nature photographer Frans Lanting is having a landmark year. But his crusade for conservation doesn’t leave much time for looking back

 

Seasons of Opportunity

Everything in our world has a specific time (a season) in which to accomplish a specific work—a “season” that begins (opportunity) and ends (time’s up). I can feel the season is changing. The leaves turning colors, the air cooler, sunbeams casting shadows in different places. It feels like a seasonal change has begun in the northern hemisphere. Christmas is in four months, and 2015 is swiftly speeding by. Soon it will be autumn and time for the many Festivals of Light. Each season offers new opportunities. Then the season ends and new seasons take its place. Humanity, too, is given “seasons” of opportunity. We are in one of those opportunities now, to bring something new (Uranus) into our world, especially in the United States. Times of opportunity can be seen in the astrology chart. In the U.S. chart, Uranus (change) joins Chiron (wound/healing). This symbolizes a need to heal the wounds of humanity. Uranus offers new archetypes, new ways of doing things. The Uranus/Chiron (Aries/Pisces) message is, “The people of the U.S. are suffering. New actions are needed to bring healing and well-being to humanity. So the U.S. can fulfill its spiritual task of standing within the light and leading humanity within and toward the light.” Thursday, Aquarius Moon, Mercury enters Libra. The message, “To bring forth the new order in the world, begin with acts of Goodwill.” Goodwill produces right relations with everyone and everything. The result is a world of progressive well-being and peacefulness (which is neither passive nor the opposite of war). Saturday is the full moon, the solar light of Virgo streaming into the Earth. Our waiting now begins, for the birth of new light at winter solstice. The mother (hiding the light of the soul, the holy child), identifying the feminine principle, says, “I am the mother and the child. I, God (Father), I Matter (Mother), We are One.”

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

His Dinner With David

Author + reporter = brainy talk in ‘End of the Tour’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Land of Plenty

Farm to Fork benefit dinner for UCSC’s Agroecology Center, plus a zippy salsa from Teresa’s Salsa that loves every food it meets

 

If you knew you had one week to live, what would you do?

Make peace with myself, which would allow me to be at peace with others. Diane Fisher, Santa Cruz, Network Engineer

 

Comanche Cellars

Michael Simons, owner and winemaker of Comanche Cellars, once had a trusted steed called Comanche, which was part of his paper route and his rodeo circuit, from the tender age of 10. In memory of this beautiful horse, he named his winery Comanche, and Comanche’s shoes grace the label of each handcrafted bottle.

 

Cantine Winepub

Aptos wine and tapas spot keeps it casual