Thursday, June 19, 2014

Stereotypes Abound in "Jersey Boys"


An Expanded Movie of “Jersey Boys”

By Skip Sheffield

Who loves you pretty mama? Clint Eastwood, the Four Seasons and “Jersey Boys” do.
“Jersey Boys” is a film adaptation of the hit Broadway show that featured the best songs of New Jersey Italian-American vocal group, Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons. It won the 2006 Best Musical Tony Award and Best Actor for star John Lloyd Young.
Young reprises his role as lead singer Frankie Valli in a screenplay adapted by Marshall Brickman (“Annie Hall,” “Manhattan”) and Rick Elice. Noted music aficionado Clint Eastwood is the director.
The movie centers more on the personal struggles of four young Italian-Americans in northern New Jersey than did the stage musical, which was more like a Four Seasons concert with story on the side.
Judging by this movie, you would think everyone in Jersey “tawks like dis” and had mob connections. I spent two of the happiest summers of my life in New Jersey and I know this is an unfair stereotype, but for this movie it serves the dramatic purpose. The Four Seasons as a group struggled a lot for their success and Frankie Valli struggled the most of all to be a good, honest family man in a corrupting business.
The story begins in 1954. Frankie Castelluccio (John Lloyd Young) is best friends with brothers Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) and Nick DeVito (Johnny Cannizzaro). The boys love singing together when they are not engaged in petty crime. The movie begins with a funny botched theft of a safe, instigated by Tommy DeVito. Tommy may have been a shady character but he could play guitar and sing. He became a core part of the group that would become known as the Four Seasons, with his brother Nick, Valli and songwriter-singer Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen). In a funny but true footnote, it was actor Joe Peschi who introduced the boys to hit-maker Bob Gaudio, who in turn introduced them to lyricist and producer Bob Crewe (Mike Doyle).
Crewe is portrayed as a flaming gay guy, which may or may not have been true. This is a story full of stereotypes and black-and-white judgments. Frankie Valli emerges as the hero. Tommy DeVito is the villain who swindled the group of a huge amount of money. Christopher Walken is a scene-stealer as Gyp DeCarlo, a kind of Godfather and fixer for the boys. The reality is there was probably a lot of gray area. Some characters, like Boca Raton resident Charles Calello, are given short shrift, but the important part is the music. The Four Seasons reconciled for their installation in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

I think the music is stronger and more exciting in the stage musical because it is live. What is undeniable is that John Lloyd Young gives an amazing performance both musically and dramatically as Frankie Valli. If you didn’t appreciate Frankie Valli before, you will after seeing this film.

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