134 minutes, R
probably comes down to this: if you enjoy the music of the Four Seasons (and
literally millions do), you’re likely to enjoy “Jersey Boys,” the Clint
Eastwood-directed film version of the hit Broadway musical about the group.
not to like, after all, about listening to very reasonable facsimiles of
“Sherry,” “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night),” “Walk Like a Man,”
“Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and other selections from the canon of
Frankie Valli and company?
movie has Valli (John Lloyd Young, who won a Tony for playing the role on
Broadway) and the rest of the Seasons singing their songs in various settings.
Young croons “My Eyes Adored You” as a lullaby to his daughter and the boys
belt out “Dawn” at the Ohio State Fair. Other venues include night clubs,
sound studios, and “The Ed Sullivan Show,” in connection with which the dour
host is seen first on a TV screen (as is Eastwood, in a 50-year-old clip from
his “Rawhide” series), then from behind in the guise of a shuffling actor.
unusual but welcome device in “Jersey Boys” is the use of not just one
narrator but four. Each member of the famed band - played by Vincent Piazza,
Erich Bergen and Michael Lomenda, in addition to Young - breaks the dramatic
fourth wall to provide background information. The gambit would’ve been even
better had each character put a more definite personal spin on things, which the
several narrators in “Citizen
Kane” did. As Piazza, playing original Jersey Boy Tommy DeVito, puts it in
what has become the film’s tagline, “Everybody remembers it how they need
Boys” (as you might’ve guessed, given
its stage musical basis) is meant to be more a showcase for Four Seasons songs,
truncated or in their entirety, than
a painstaking biopic. Thus main character Valli’s growing-up years, marital
and familial woes and unwillingness for the longest time to move out of his
modest Newark neighborhood because of an irrational fear his fame and fortune
would be fleeting are painted with broad strokes-condensed into representative
scenes or referred to offhandedly, but hardly spelled out.
“Jersey Boys” is Frankie Valli’s picture (and, by extension, John Lloyd
Young’s), the best acting job is Christopher Walken’s as non-singing,
large-living gangster Gyp DeCarlo, who’s as sentimental as he is practical.
Captivated early on by Valli and his “gift from God” pipes, Walken’s
wiseguy befriends Valli’s bandmates also and smooths out Seasons’ troubles
as the years go by. Walken’s turn in front of the camera could certainly be
remembered when Golden Globe and Oscar nominees are next selected.
for Young, he’s in the movie more for his singing than his acting (and he is
quite a singer). Young seems too old to play Frankie the teenager, too young to
portray Valli the middle-ager
84 minutes, R
best thing about “Obvious Child”? It was short enough that I got home in
time to see a good half of that night’s Brewers game.
sounded snarky, I know, but I found more to dislike than to like about Gillian
Robespierre’s third directorial effort. (Robespierre also wrote the script for
this comedy feature, which is based on her 2009 short by the same title.) My
“dislike” category includes the stand-up comic protagonist’s recurring
raunchiness, which first manifests itself the moment the movie begins (to
negligible laughter when I attended).
more objectionable is the cavalier manner in which abortion is treated. “I’m
pregnant; I’m having an abortion,” the part-time comic, New Yorker Donna
Stern, announces to her mother (an inconsistent character with whom actress
Polly Draper, a personal favorite on “Thirtysomething” years ago, is
saddled). “Thank God,” mom casually responds. “I thought you were going to
say you were moving to Los Angeles.”
there are the hackneyed pearls of wisdom put forth by one character or another,
like “Change is good” and “Sometimes we just have to let go of the things
we love.” And the tacky ease with which characters relinquish privacy when
all that, the film has a realistic ring and Jenny Slate (a real-life stand-up
comic and former “Saturday Night Live” cast member) renders a nicely nuanced
performance as Donna. Had she been less crass, and had she ever done a lick of
work on her day job at a bookstore, I’d have been more sympathetic to
Donna’s unplanned pregnancy-might’ve even really liked the character. I did
like Jake Lacy (Pete on TV’s “The Office”), who plays opposite Slate as
her good guy partner (shades of Michael Cera and “Juno”) in the sweetish
love story that is “Obvious Child’s” best aspect.