‘Jersey Boys’ shows the dark origins of the Four Seasons

Jackson French

“Jersey Boys,” Clint Eastwood’s adaptation of a jukebox musical of the same name, explores this exact topic, which turns out to be far more interesting than one would expect.

Through much of the movie we get a fascinating contrast between two distinct images. First, the cutthroat, crime-ridden Italian neighborhood Frankie Valli, played by John Lloyd Young, hails from and can never quite escape, and then the band’s squeaky-clean public image.

When the band starts out, many of its members have committed a fair share of petty crimes. Onstage, the group, with its matching outfits and wholesome, family-friendly façade, covers up their rough background and the internal struggles that threaten to tear the band apart.


Bandleader and founder Tommy DeVito is played by Vincent Piazza. Piazza is manipulative and unfriendly from the moment the audience is introduced to him. He quickly evolves into a mean and abusive bastard. Unwise investments and a short-sighted approach to band management leave him nearly $1 million in debt, which his band-mates must help him pay off.

Sold into virtual slavery to save his unappreciative former friend, the music biz becomes Valli’s own personal hell. While on the road constantly he hardly ever sees his family or has a moment to rest. Audiences see how exasperating and exhausting Valli’s life becomes. 

This stage play is brought to life on screen with an intoxicating blend of cinematic styles. At first the film version feels like a gritty crime movie. The streets of Jersey looking appropriately dark and run-down. The cinematography, which saps a lot of the color and contrast out of the images, fits the mood and the disparity between these scenes. The Four Seasons’ glitzy, brightly-colored live shows say more than words ever could about who the characters really are and who they’re pretending to be. Both styles are beautifully realized and fit together nicely despite, or maybe because of, the differences in approach.

Bringing more sparks of life to the film are the actors, a number of whom also starred in the musical. The actors playing the band members fit comfortably into their roles with Piazza bringing a frightening hostility to the character of Tommy DeVito. Young as Valli shows a diverse range of emotions throughout.  

Of course, a movie about the Four Seasons would be nothing without music. With John Lloyd Young having a painfully high tone in his singing voice, much like Valli did in his youth, we get some faithfully and passionately recreated versions of classic Seasons songs like “Sherry” and “I Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”

With expertly-recrafted music, heartfelt drama and a fascinating look at the dark environment the Four Seasons came from, Eastwood’s interpretation of “Jersey Boys” is a heady theatrical experience.