Saturday, February 2, 2019

Movie Review ~ Jersey Boys

Due to the polar vortex, (or "cold weather") I took a couple of days off this week. That afforded me some time to catch up on my Netflix bookmarks. I watched two depressing documentaries about the Fyre Festival (two-plus-some hours I'll never get back and a story I found I don't actually give a damn about), and I also watched Jersey Boys, primarily because it was directed by Clint Eastwood, who normally directs awesome movies.

Plus, it was a music flick about artists I am actually familiar with ~ The Four Seasons.

To assign a letter grade to the movie, I would rate it a C minus.

The first act is unnecessarily long. We get to know little Frankie Castelluccio, soon to be "Valli", sixteen and yelled at a lot by his mother for staying out late. Frankie cuts hair by day, his main customer being a Tony Soprano-like mobster played by Christopher Walken. Everyone acknowledges that little Frankie is a wonderful singer, even though his singing voice is catastrophically nasal to the point at which a good allergist might prescribe bed rest and a strong humidifier.

The main character in Act One, however, is Tommy DeVito (or "Chandler Bing"), a small-time hood who nevertheless fronts a musical trio and ultimately brings little Frankie into the group, due to his ability to snort snot onto the female audience members and send them into phlegm-induced convulsions.

This goes on and on, until little Frankie meets a hard-edged woman who talks him into changing his last name, and upon hearing this revelation, he immediately proposes marriage. (Frankie and Hard-Edge ultimately have three daughters, to which he sings inappropriate lullabies about how his eyes adored them, but he never laid a hand on them. Whew!)

The little quartet doesn't gain any traction, though, until DeVito's friend Joe Pesci (yes!) introduces them to a songwriter who has absolutely no cognizance that he's, in fact, gay. But that's neither here nor there in the arc of the story.

New songwriter writes a song called "Sherry" and their flouncy record producer, for whom the group has been singing background vocals, realizes that it's a hit in the making.

This begins a whirlwind of hit recordings and appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show with Topo Gigio.

Act Two introduces us to the anonymous bass player's exasperation at having to share a hotel room with Tommy DeVito, who is a certified slob whose habits ultimately lead to Anonymous Bass Player quitting the band. Plus DeVito (Chandler) is constantly badgering the group's accountant for loans to pay off Tony Soprano's designated loan shark. We're not sure why Tommy needs to borrow money all the time, but he claims it's to "keep the band afloat". Apparently the record company contract is woefully paltry. We're not sure.

Eventually there is a band showdown in Tony Walken Soprano's living room, during which Little Frankie tells Tommy that enough is enough, and DeVito is banished to Las Vegas and reduced to being Joe Pesci's go-fer, while Joe peruses scripts that include the role of a sad-sack "mobster" who terrorizes Macaulaly Culkin.

Little Frankie, altruistically, volunteers to cover all of Tommy's debts. That leads to Act Three, during which Frankie plays bowling alleys and diners, collecting his twenty-dollar wages in all ones. Meanwhile, he hooks up with an unnamed newspaper reporter, who eventually just "can't deal with it" and leaves, stuffing her suitcase full of way too many articles of clothing than a normal person would pack for a weekend getaway.

Eventually, one of Frankie's generic kids dies from some malady and Frankie suffers guilt pangs until closeted gay writer pens him a new hit, which makes everything all right.

Many years later, the Four Seasons (who took their name from a bowling alley ~ not the same one in which Frankie later shilled for dollar bills) are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and meet for the first time in decades outside the hall. Frankie sports a fake "old person" look, as do the other three seasons. No one, however, is leaning on a cane. Each of the Seasons gets their turn to speak directly into the camera, to tell their side of the story, by which point the viewing audience is checking the time on their phones and Googling "good rock movies".

The movie ends by every...single...member of the cast (even the "dead" ones) performing a choreographed dance on a sound stage street. Apparently it was supposed to be an homage to the Broadway show from which the movie was adapted. But it was....weird.

Clint, Clint, Clint...I don't know what you were thinking. Maybe, like I do sometimes, you got so far into the thing that you just kept going and hoped it would all turn out all right.

I bet there's a good movie to be made about this seminal sixties group. This wasn't it.

The thing about the Four Seasons is, they were always there. No, they weren't cool. But there was something about their sound. You couldn't ignore them. Even Frankie's comeback song, which he did as a solo, will live on forever. Me, straddling the era of my big sisters and big brother and ultimately my own, felt like I'd always known them.

Sorry this video sucks, but it's the only original I could find (and good luck finding "Sherry", by the way):

This was not a huge hit, but I like this one:

This was definitely from my era:

In case you were wondering, this was Frankie's comeback song (again, 1967 ~ my era):

In 1975, I was minding my own business, listening to AM radio like I always did, and this song came on. "Is this the Four Seasons? I thought they all died in 1969!"

Speaking of Christopher "Tony Soprano" Walken, Frankie actually gets hit in the Sopranos.

And we never heard from him again.

Just kidding.

The Four Seasons legacy is way stronger than a crappy movie. 

Although I do wonder whatever happened to Chandler Bing.


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