I know quite a lot of the Four Seasons material but have never had the chance, as of yet to see the stage show concerning their story and other songs featured in this movie were new to me, but it’s something I do want to see live and I wanted to see what the film would offer up. The music itself works and is presented nicely, the acting by all is fantastic but it just seems to lose itself in places and more critically it fails to feel lively for a musically orientated tale.
The film’s plot is presented through seeing the four guys come together to form the rock/pop band and also with the members speaking to the camera. We see how Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) claims to set the whole band idea up and he makes a star of Frankie Castelluccio/Valli (John Lloyd Young) to lead him and Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda). After hitting clubs and bars they employ the singing and songwriting talents of Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) and that’s when things really hit off for the four of them though through different eyes we see altering takes on their rise and how all four really behave.
Clint Eastwood does manage to stir up some moody atmosphere to the piece of Jersey seedy goings on and there a lot of lighting cues that give scenes that impressive shadow work, helping see the early stolen good business side of Tommy, Nick and Frankie as underworldly and dangerous. It is also a negative in making the story a 15 and switching up some more fun and family friendly scenes with violent or swear filled moments that could easily get rid of a lot of people who would have seen this movie otherwise, either from enjoying their music or having seen the stage show.
The musical numbers themselves do the job, though most of them are just the four lovers/felons/seasons performing on stage and doing what they do best. The first hair raising moment where the music speaks for itself and in fact speaks volumes against the shady background they’ve stepped out from is in front of a piano when they trial Bob to prove his worth as an addition to their group. The ending sequence is quite weird though, it starts off classy but then becomes like a ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ dancing in the street shebang, I also didn’t get the musical statues-esque decision of them staying still as some credits appeared. On a huge plus note, the harmonies throughout are perfect and in general the music makes the film. The songs are great and I love the smooth style of the Four Seasons. The presentation of Valli singing Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You is sublime, emotional and big band brilliance.
I think the main issue this big screen adaptation has is in it feels like it’s too long. The more dramatic and serious tonal parts of the story get tilted off centre with some odd moments where the breaking of the fourth wall comes in. At first you’re used to it as near the beginning of the feature there is a lot of it coming from Tommy but then it disappears and you get invested in the straight telling of their stories but then whack….it comes back again at either rare or funny places and it’s just misplaced now and then. The dragging problem is with the lack of focus of whose story is being told. I get that the point is whoever you’d ask would tell you different things but there feels like a lot of Tommy and Frankie but then not of the others really. The family backgrounds and other true account explorations can sometimes become tiresome and put a block in the desire the music has to lift us up out of our chairs.
The four men do a top job of playing the band members and I believe that Piazza is the only actor who hasn’t previously played one of them on Broadway or the West End. Piazza as Tommy is a great casting choice and he brings his ‘Boardwalk Empire’ class and gangster charm with him in bucketloads. He clearly is the antagonist of the piece in what he does and it was interesting to see how he took on the position that he thought the whole success was kicked off by him, maybe it was but we don’t know as each have their own accounts in a way. Lloyd Young playing Valli is amazing, that voice of his is like some grounded representation of heaven, he hits some impressive notes and resembles the real Frankie really well. A proper voice of silky gold. Bergen plays the outsider role with conviction and even through his DC Harry Batt (Dick and Dom) days he portrays the do right and do good persona needed to aide Valli on the right course. Lomenda gives the audience that bass feature in both voice and personality as the stronger more stand up guy who rolls with the punches, at least at first until he truly sees red and acts his socks off when confronting Tommy. Christopher Walken does good in a smaller capacity but still showcases how brilliant he always is and how funny he can be also.
There honestly are some hard hitting and interesting moments in this account of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. I learnt about their lives and that in itself is something to take away as I wanted to find out more about them. The more slow paced and up and down tonal shifts of the film haven’t weakened my will to see the show live at all because it’s a given that stage to screen transferences lose that there and now thrill and gain a more gritty cinematic presence.
Not a musical that fires on all cylinders but it tells us a solid story and provides us with pleasurable music to keep the toe tapping just enough to overlook the slightly too long running time and slight lack of spark.