Starring: John Lloyd Young, Erich Bergen, Michael Lomenda
Director: Clint Eastwood
Screenplay: Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice
Biography/Musical/Drama, Rated: R
Running Time: 134 minutes
Release Date: June 20, 2014
Franki Valli: Single, P-PP Emotional, Pro (Classic Lone Hero)
DeVito: Single, N-N Moral, Ant (Untransformed Lone Villain)
Crewe: Single, N-N Moral, Ant (Untransformed Lone Villain)
Relax. Frankie goes to Hollywood!
Turns out that Frankie experiences some peaks and vallies. Let’s recap.
It’s the 1950’s and young Frankie Castelluccio (John Lloyd Young) is a teen living in New Jersey. He’s a good boy with a gift for singing. We learn that there are only three ways to get out of Jersey: join the army, get “mobbed up” or get famous. Frankie appears to be doing two out of the three as he’s best buds with mobster Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken) who is grooming Frankie to be a great singer.
Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) has a band and takes an interest in Frankie’s unique vocal talents. Tommy also involves Frankie in some of his crime sprees, but Frankie straightens out and is eventually invited to join Tommy’s band. An established songwriter, Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) joins the group, and then Frankie falls in love with a beautiful woman named Mary (Renee Marino). The band appears headed on a promising trajectory but Tommy’s criminal involvement with the mob spells deep trouble for the band.
Scott, I am usually skeptical of biopics, especially those about musicians and pop music stars, but I was very happy with Jersey Boys. I have also never really enjoyed the music of the Four Seasons, but this movie added such dimension and color that the story of these four young men from Jersey really hit home with me. I had a very good time at director Clint Eastwood’s latest offering.
I found Jersey Boys to be a highly enjoyable romp through the world of early rock’n roll. The music is fun and fresh, and the casting in the movie is spot-on. Frankie Valli’s physical and musical uniqueness had to be a considerable casting challenge but John Lloyd Young rises to the occasion. He does a phenomenal job portraying Valli.
As a biopic, we’re witness to the complete hero journey, from Valli as a raw 16-year-old to Valli as a grizzled geezer. Valli’s entire professional life is challenged by several factors, not the least of which is the corrupting influence of Tommy DeVito. We can see that Valli is more talented and more scrupulous than DeVito, yet has trouble extricating himself from DeVito’s control.
It’s a wonderful true-life hero’s journey after all. There is a scene where all the Four Seasons are assembled in Gyp’s house and a loan shark want’s money from Tommy. Frankie could feed him to the sharks, but he steps up and takes on Tommy’s debt. This is a huge moment where we see that Frankie is no longer a young kid living in Tommy’s shadow. He is a full-grown adult taking responsibility for himself and his friend.
There aren’t a lot of villains in this story. Gyp DeCarlo is soft-sold as a mafioso with a heart of gold. The record companies are given a pass as they took advantage of the boys. Frankie’s wife is portrayed as an alcoholic wife-from-hell who doesn’t appreciate him and constantly complains about his absence from home. These don’t really raise to the level of villains. So we’re left with a nice story of a singer’s rise to fame and fall from grace. Still, a very enjoyable ride.
You’re right, Greg, there are several oppositional forces at work, serving as obstacles in the way of Frankie Valli’s success. In addition to Tommy DeVito, there is Bob Crewe, the producer who relegates the band to singing back-up vocals for over a year. Another oppositional force is the rough neighborhood in which Valli grew up. He had to overcome a challenging environment and some difficult people.
And let’s not overlook the sidekick in the story — Bob Gaudio, whose songwriting ability meshes beautifully with Valli’s unusually soaring vocal style. Valli’s breakout into the big-time of rock’n roll depended entirely on his collaboration with Gaudio, who is portrayed as both savvy and virtuous. Overall, the developmental arc of Valli’s self-confidence and leadership ability in the band is a joy to watch. It’s a nice hero’s journey.
I fully enjoyed this trip into Rock-n-Roll history. Jersey Boys illustrates the genesis of what could be considered the first boy band. It’s a story of friendship and loyalty as well as the growing pains of stardom. I give Jersey Boys 4 out of 5 Reels.
The hero in this story is Frankie Valli and he goes through all the phases of the hero’s journey. Sadly, with little opposition he doesn’t rise to the level of heroic action that I’d like to see. I can give Frankie only 3 Heroes out of 5.
The villains in this story were not very clear. Frankie has some obstacles to overcome, but no one in the story was really trying to keep Frankie and the boys down. I give Jersey Boys only 2 out of 5 Villains.
Jersey Boys is a must-see for any fans of the early days of rock’n roll. Director Clint Eastwood continues to turn out quality movies, and amusingly he sneaks in a brief clip of his role in an early spaghetti western. Jersey Boys oozes energy, pop, and pizzazz. I’m happy to also award this film 4 Reels out of 5.
Nothing disturbs me more than agreeing with you, Greg. As you point out, the hero’s journey is quite good here. But it doesn’t rise to the level of outstanding because our hero is simply a musician who overcomes obstacles to star in the music industry. There is no great moral achievement, which is the ultimate goal of a quality hero story. This shortcoming reduces my rating of Frankie Valli’s heroism to a mere 3 out of 5 Heroes.
The villains are fairly interesting here, especially Tommy DeVito, who is such a classless douche-bag that we’re left wondering why Frankie Valli didn’t part with him years before DeVito dragged everyone down into a financial abyss. We’re witness to DeVito’s full backstory and his inability to rise above his mobster mentality. Once again, we see this inability to transcend personal weaknesses as a defining characteristic of villains. So I’m going to give DeVito and the two other oppositional characters (Crewe and Mary) a hefty 4 Villains out of 5.