Friday, July 25, 2014

"Jersey Boys": Clint Eastwood's distanced treatment keeps the Broadway jutebox musical cool

I’m not necessarily in a hurry to see movie adaptations of Broadway hits that I have seen on stage, but since Clint Eastwood directs “Jersey Boys”, I gave it a whirl. I had seen the stage version of the jutebox musical at the National Theater in Washington DC Jan 5, 2012, and it is reviewed on that date on my Drama and Music Reviews Blog.
The movie is presented in “Rashomon” style – that is, each of the four major characters (the four young men who made up “The Four Seasons”) narrating their own perspective in “mockumentary” style (familiar from “Modern Family”).  There’s more emphasis on the drama – their conflicts among themselves and with other businesses, leading them to owe money to the Mafia.  The musical numbers start to get performed in the second half, after all the songs have been written.
John Lloyd Young seems diminutive was Frankie Valli (he even gets a bit of a belly); Vincent Piazza plays Tommy, whose personal habits made him a problem to live with; Erich Bergen plays Bob Gaudio, and Michael Lomenda is Nick Massi.  Christopher Walken is the articulate but conniving mob boss, Gyp DiCarlo, who has the four young men at his estate (which appears to be in California) in a near final confrontation. The original boss who makes the contract, Bob Crewe (Mike Doyle) seems to fit in, but then comes the loanshark Norman Waxman (Donnie Kehr) with a debt out of the woodwork.

The musical number that stays in mind is “Sherry”.  But “Who Loves You”, “Walk Like a Man” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry” all carry some social traction. 
Eastwood’s direction is cool and non-interventionist. Following his own libertarian leanings, he does not try to moralize on the boys’ behavior, or the gay promoter who makes a comparison to Liberace as “extravagant”. Eastwood's son Kyle composed some of the original music orchestral background.  
The official site is here. Warner Brothers presented its trademark (along with GK Films) in black and white.  The film makes the 1950s world look attractive with its muted colors.  People seemed to live better than we thought. 

There’s an early auto accident scene that physics teachers will like.  The closing scene, where the men, quite weathered by age, meet and sing in 1990 at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in New York City.  The museum in Cleveland wouldn’t open until 1995. 
I saw the film in a small auditorium at Regal in Arlington, and it still attracts an audience, even on a weekday. 
Pictures:  Hoboken, NJ (mine, 2013;  the opening of the film is set in Belleville, near Newark; then outside the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland on a Sunday night, 2012, with me.    

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