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Eastwood takes on ‘Jersey Boys’

By Staff | Jun 25, 2014

Getting out of the ‘hood in search of bigger and better has been a mantra for generation after generation. Circumstances change, but ambitious zeal vibrates through each era. Too, the plight of the unsuccessful lingers for those unable to break the curse of survival in the neighborhood of their youth.

Clint Eastwood’s “Jersey Boys” musically woos as four Italian kids sing their way to fame and fortune. Consequences from choices represent hurdles along the way to induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young) has a gift – his voice and his music. His talent gains support from a neighborhood mobster (Christopher “Deer Hunter” Walken). Valli runs the back streets of an unnamed city with Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) who’s a smooth talking (and gambling impaired) organizer, attempting to move the “Four Lovers” quartet from bowling alley and small nightspots to the Billboard charts.

Under the mob’s watchful eyes, band members faithfully ply their Doo Wop styles, supplementing their meager existence through underworld vices. He’s their “break” and “smoothie” for bumping roadblocks aside, when hood forsaking options consist of enlisting in the military, embracing the mob or achieving fame (there was no million dollar professional athlete option then).

Marshall Brickman (“Annie Hall”) pairs with Rick Elice on a cautionary tale of sacrifices upending the winding road to fame and fortune. Think “Walk the Line” as a biographic musical serenade to Eastwood’s storytelling and musical celebrations.

The quartet’s juvenile delinquent back story accents their troubles and tribulations, specifically how the demands of touring destroys the normalcy of family life, then composed of a mom, dad and children.

Brickman and Elice artistically weave the heavy life events into a musical celebration, whose soft swinging song lyrics more often than not reflect personal challenges.

Dark-haired short guy Valli finds favor through the addition of Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen), a gifted singer-songwriter who instantly complements Valli’s falsetto sound.

Grabbing their first chart topper with “Sherry,” the band’s fortunes soared during an era strongly influenced by the rocking John, Paul, George and Ringo whose hits propelled The Beach Boys and the Bee Gees along the changing musical waters.

Their impeccable evergreen standards – “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Who Loves You,” “Oh What a Night” – inject inspiring energy and, for some, recollections of living in other decades.

Director Eastwood’s narrative incorporates flawlessly a Rashomon technique where main characters speak to the audience with vital info and perspectives which bridge their foot tapping, orchestral melodies.

John Lloyd Young’s “Valli” shines deftly accenting the low moments (sitting alone at a non-descript diner moaning with a wad of $50 bills in a pile) to cunning, timely leadership when their fortunes reach critical decision crossroads.

Like any bio pic, “Jersey Boys” has its share of time warp major events snipped (i.e. Valli’s daughter Francine’s (played by Grace – “Bachelor Weekend” – Kelley) sure success musical talent is left unseen and unheard by the audience. Too, the dark times don’t incorporate “Let’s Hang On” or “Working My Way Back to You,” which apparently would summarize troubles along the way.