Saturday, July 12, 2014

Jersey Boys (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Jersey Boys

Clint Eastwood's "Jersey Boys" has arrived in patent leather. The film is Eastwood's cinematic version of the popular Broadway Musical based on Frankie Valli and his group The Four Seasons. The story starts swiftly with excellent cinematography that is appropriately muted in palette and semi sepia-toned in keeping with Eastwood's style.

The score proves this film's anchor which is effervescent and gleefully  soaring.

Seasons member Tommy (Vincent Piazza) appears onscreen as a "Goodfellas" version of Rod Serling telling us of all the trouble The Boys are in as young kids. Indeed, the band mates talk to the camera in the manner of "House of Cards."

Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young) is a lookout to robbing a safe with a high, bell like voice. Nick (Michael Lomenda) is the tall baritone and Tommy makes a shifty wheeler dealer.

The dialogue is snappy with lots of Jersey slang. At times, the repartee is so rapid it almost runs the risk of being a parody of itself especially given that this is such frequently travelled terrain via Scorsese and "The Sopranos." There is a heap of knitted eyebrows, squinty eyes, and gun level smirks slanting sideways with lots of lines like "Frankie, you kiddin?"  When the gang does get entangled with the cops, the drama is more reminiscent of  "The Bowery Boys" than a punchy "Mean Streets." In one scene, Valli gets hit by a small book.

The period, however, is handled with a terrific slickness. The cars shine like rolling pastry on licorice wheels. The boys have hair that is high, slick and grooved like a record.

This is a period right before the shaky rush of the 60s, before the folk beats of the anti-status quo  questioned all in its path. The youth was still holding onto pink, pastel, coke, martinis and debutante balls. The Beatles are  unheard of and the only man in a suit Frankie wants to conquer is Sinatra.

This is well captured and there are fine flourishes, mainly in the encroachment of Jazz music and its stream of consciousness, which like abstract paintings on awall, Valli doesn't comprehend. Valli holds on to his doo-wop leaps like something sacred and hermetic---a sound of clean lines gliding smoothly through space creating an audible version of a Lincoln Continental shooting down the Newark highway.

There is much metro area melodrama as Frankie meets with mafioso Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken) who is somewhat comical in puffy hair. With his pale manner and a cumulus doo, Walken almost makes a Dracula Don. Frankie and the boys meet a virtuosic songwriter, Bob Gaudio and during a chance bowling alley meeting with future Scorsese sidekick, Joe Pesci, (Joey Russo) The Four Seasons are made.

While the police business and some family caterwauling in the narrative have little spunk, given soft-shoes, the principle actors have spirit. This chemistry together with rousing music throughout, puts all in champagne city.

Just when we are bogged down by Frankie's low valleys, his voice hits and we are brought back to that time of a bubbling turn and swish.

"Jersey Boys" might have benefitted from a more unapologetic fist and a blacker shoe, but Eastwood renders the period well with even something touching in Valli's determined wise-guy grin.

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