Clint Eastwood’s new biopic, “Jersey Boys,” is adapted from a globally successful Broadway musical. The film centers around falsetto king Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young) and is narrated in turn by each member of the Four Seasons.
The story revels in depicting the band’s ties to Mafioso Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken). Band founder Tommy DeVito (played by uncanny look-alike Vincent Piazza) supplemented the band’s income and financed its demos with sales of stolen merchandise sanctioned by DeCarlo. Tommy and co-perpetrator Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda), who sang a mean bass and played bass guitar, are shown in revolving-door roles, one man serving a short prison term while the other obtains bookings and keeps the band going.
Played for goofs and laughs, the early scenes attempt to pigeonhole their crimes as boyish antics. The first heist, which involves Frankie acting as lookout and driver for the crew, is amusing, but, well before the fourth and fifth time around, the joke is worn thin. Never tiresome is Christopher Walken’s “Godfather” act, especially during a scene when Frankie sings of a mother’s love for her son and Gyp DeCarlo is seen weeping a waterfall in the audience.
While the band’s musical performances surely loom large onstage, they are made smaller in the film by a camera that continually shifts its focus to take in nightclub locations and the band’s adoring (mostly female) patrons. It is in one of these small nightclubs that Frankie meets Mary (Renee Marino), portrayed as both brassy and seductive. Wedding bells soon ring, and the pair seems happy enough until the band tastes success. At that point Mary is practically eliminated from the story. When she appears, she’s depicted as a boozing, disenfranchised single mom.
Mob influences aside, the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons’ rise to fame lacks a defining moment or the sense that anyone, other than songwriter and piano-playing member Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen), is focused on success. As time goes on we learn one band member’s misuse of funds gets the band deep into debt, but we never understand how he spent the money.
Eastwood directs a story that flows well but seems dull because dialogue of so little of import occurs between the song performances intended to say what the film does not.
While pleasing enough, especially if you’re a Four Seasons fan, I waited for something or someone to make the story pop. Instead I got doo-wop.