Stars: Vincent Piazza, Erich Bergen, John Lloyd Young and Michael Lomenda (The Boys)
Today I saw The Jersey Boys, which is the newly released film version directed by Clint Eastwood. I took in the 1:05 p.m., Saturday afternoon showing, and sat in a nearly full theater of baby boomers, or those not far from that generation. At my age, you do have to chuckle when you are clearly placed in the demographics of those who remember the heyday of The Four Seasons as part of their teenage years.
I have no idea what it is about those songs of the 60’s and ‘70’s, except that they remain in your memory and are a part of your DNA. In my case, it is especially true because I was born and raised Detroit—the home of Motown and doo-wop. I danced to those songs at sock hops during junior high and high school. I suspect that many who attended the movie came because of the music, which is the highlight of the film.
The movie is based off the Tony Award Winning Jersey Boys, with three of the stage stars reprising their role in the film version. John Lloyd Young, who plays Frankie Valli, is fantastic. He won the 2006 Tony Award Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical. He carries that talent and performance well onto the screen, frankly making the movie what it is. The others in the cast who played members of the band were no less talented. Clint Eastwood keeps true to the stage version, from what I’ve read, in that the performers narrate directly into the camera in various spots. It works well and did not distract from the film.
Of course, behind the music are the lives of those who perform. Like most bands of that era, they started under humble circumstances. Much of the beginning of the film depicts their roots in Jersey and rise to stardom. Thanks to the songwriter, Bob Gaudio, who joined and wrote hit after hit, they quickly rose to fame flying out of the gates with “Sherry.” I’m sorry, but every time I say the name Sherry, my brain starts singing:
Sherry, Sherry baby
Sherry, Sherry baby
Sherry, can you come out tonight
The cream of the crop of their biggest hits are performed, such as “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” and many others. A lighthearted moment in the film is when Bob Gaudio comes up with the idea for “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” I’m not sure if that was true, but it sure was good for a laugh.
Unfortunately, like other groups, The Four Seasons were not without their problems, most of which focused around Tommy DeVito. Though he was the founder of the group and the one who encouraged Frankie in his early days, he also brought about the group’s breakup by incurring a huge debt with a loan shark, along with taking so much money from the group’s earnings, he placed them $500,000 in the hole with the IRS. One member quits, and Frankie and Gaudio spin off on their own, which led to other memorable songs, such as “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” That performance in the film is undoubtedly my favorite not only for entertainment value, but mainly because they sung it at the Roostertail Club in Detroit. Boy, that place was the hub-bub of entertainment and a common household name when I lived there. Long before the current city went bankrupt, in the fifties and sixties Detroit had the handle on music in its heyday.
All in all, I enjoyed the movie, even though it did have a few slow parts. There is very little about Frankie Valli’s personal life, though it is touched on briefly throughout the film. The music, of course, transports you back to your teens if you are from that generation. Frankly, I couldn’t stop tapping my foot to the beat a few times. The audience seemed just as enthralled and lost in nostalgia.
I’m sorry that I never saw the stage version, even though I had an opportunity while in Vegas quite a few times. I have no idea why I didn’t go see it. From what I read online, it’s going on tour in the UK in the fall of 2014. Even though I missed the experience of live performances, the movie is a good replacement.
Will the younger generation like the film? Probably not as much as the baby boomers. If you are 40, 50, or 60, it’s right up your alley — Sherry baby!
UPDATE: The soundtrack to the movie was released June 24th and is now available for purchase. It is fantastic!!! I highly recommend.
One last personal note…
Early in the movie, a phrase was used by DeVito when showing his stash of goods hidden away. When asked where it all came from, he said, “It fell off a truck.” I almost choked on my popcorn over that one, because it was one of my father’s classic explanations. Every once in a while he would come home with something new. My mother would ask the question where it came from, and he would answer, “It fell off a truck.” I can still hear my dad’s voice and the smirk on his face when he said those words. Priceless…