Granger on Movies: 'Jersey Boys'
Clint Eastwood doesn't just transfer the Broadway musical about the Four Seasons onto the screen; he adroitly delves into their complex inter-relationships, focusing on the diminutive front man with the unmistakable falsetto voice, Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young, Tony Award winner for his stage portrayal).
The behind-the-music story of this iconic rock `n' roll group begins in Belleville, N.J., in 1951, when young Frankie Castelluccio was hanging out with trouble-making Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza). Fortunately, Frankie catches the attention of mobster Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken), who becomes his mentor/protector. While hot-tempered Tommy manages and bass guitarist Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda) does arrangements, they don't really find their sound -- or name -- until prolific songwriter Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) joins the group. He's an astute businessman as well as a savvy musician, hooking them up with flamboyant record producer Bob Crewe (Mike Doyle).
Suddenly, they're wildly successful, churning out 1960s hits like "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry," "Walk Like a Man," "Dawn," "Rag Doll," Bye Bye Baby," "Can't Take My Eyes Off You ..." and many more. Decidedly peripheral to Frankie's loyalty to his buddies are his first wife, Mary Delgado (Renee Marino), and his reporter girlfriend, Lorraine (Erica Piccinnini).
Working from Marshall Brickman and Rick Elise's screenplay/jukebox musical book, director/producer Eastwood contrasts their popular four-part harmony with their squabbling, road-warrior travails and disillusionment over Tommy's gambling debts and loans. There's no lip-syncing; the actors sing live on the set. And what's most emotionally effective is having them break the "fourth wall," talking into the camera, revealing their innermost thoughts to the audience.
Eastwood's production team includes the show's original musical director, Ron Melrose, and choreographer, Sergio Trujillo, along with cinematographer Tom Stern, who often de-saturates the color; production designer James J. Murakami and costumer Deborah Hopper, who authenticate the period; and editors Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach. Valli and Gaudio were executive producers.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Jersey Boys" is a subdued, nostalgic 7 -- with Eastwood doing a Hitchcock-like cameo.