A hard act to follow
JERSEY BOYS ( M)
Stars: John Lloyd Young, Vincent Piazza, Michael Lomenda, Erich Bergen, Christopher Walken
Director: Clint Eastwood ( Million Dollar Baby)
POWERED by the irresistibly catchy back catalogue of ’ 60s pop superstars Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons – whose colourful career is charted here – Jersey Boys is very much a crowd- pleasing jukebox musical.
However, this well- crafted screen adaptation is not about to let the hits ( Sherry, Oh What a
Night, Big Girls Don’t Cry, etc.) do all the heavy lifting, allowing the storytelling to get off lightly.
Under the watchful eye of director Clint Eastwood, Jersey Boys steadily goes about earning its audience’s respect the hard way – and the right way.
Just like the stage version, the screenplay traces a familiar arc of rags- to- riches- to- ructions, one that has been experienced by many a successful group across the history of popular music.
Eastwood freshens up the tale by focusing on how the group’s smooth sound was achieved in direct contrast to the rough- and- tumble nature of their personal lives.
It all goes back to the formative days of the Four Seasons on the mean streets of New Jersey in the late 1950s.
Three members of the quartet could easily have missed their shot at the big time had they stuck with their second jobs as small- time crooks.
Frankie Valli ( John Lloyd Young) might have had the voice of an angel, but he ran with a devilish crowd.
Bandmates Tommy DeVito ( Vincent Piazza) and Nick Massi ( Michael Lomenda) both did jail time for minor felonies, and Valli went close to joining them on more than one occasion.
It was only with the reluctant recruitment of clean- living songwriter and arranger Bob Gaudio ( Erich Bergen) that the Four Seasons fi nally got their act together.
In fact, success came relatively quickly to the outfi t, largely due to the rare alchemy of Valli’s unworldly falsetto paired with Gaudio’s killer melodies.
However, no matter how rosy the future did often look for the Four Seasons, their past troubles always threatened to drag them back to square one.
In spite of a largely unknown cast – many of whom were recruited from past stage incarnations of Jersey Boys – this fi lm clicks into place very quickly, and rarely looks like coming apart.
The song sequences are expertly placed and well performed throughout, and although the script can sometimes get a little corny, there is a knowing edge to the fi lm’s sense of humour that invariably rectifi es the situation.
Many of the best non- musical moments land in the lap of the great Christopher Walken, playing a veteran mobster who tenderly mentors Frankie and the boys when times are tough.
Now showing State and Village cinemas