This movie is about the rise and fall of one of music’s famous quartets, The Four Seasons. It also showcases the backdoor hustling, deal making and schmoozing that went on in the music industry during the 1950s. You either had luck, talent or both to make it in the music scene. But like all good things, money starts to become an issue; trust amongst the group is shattered; personal and professional relationships shatter and tempers flare. Familiar faces include Christopher Walken as mob boss Angelo DeCarlo and Vincent Piazza as Tommy DeVito.
Interesting to note, the movie gives four distinct perspectives on what really went down. It’s up to the audience to surmise who is telling the truth and who is embellishing it. Frankie works in a barber’s shop by day with his father. Tommy and his brother Nicky are the neighborhood hustlers (dealing in goods that “fell off the back of a truck”) and their friend Nick Massi perform in a group called the Variety Trio. However, they need someone who is vocally talented. Frankie fits the profile perfectly – he’s a nice looking guy, great singing voice and is admired by the local mob boss, Angelo DeCarlo.
A stupid prank puts Frankie in a delicate position – so called friends of his try to pull a scam on him to get $20,000. Tommy takes care of things and the next thing you know, mob boss Angelo clears up the situation. The group also attempts to rob a safe and ends up getting caught by the local authorities. Tommy has to go back and spend “time in the joint” – as he says in the movie; it’s a revolving door around there. Tommy has the smarts to know he can’t lead the group vocally, so he brings Frankie on board. Frankie meets his future wife at a performance, a very beautiful and blunt woman named Mary Delgado. As Tommy states earlier – there were a few ways to get out of Jersey: the army (and you might get killed); the mob (and you most certainly would be killed) or making it in show business. Mary saw the big picture in Frankie and married him, with the hopes of getting out of town permanently.
As the group struggles to get a recording contract, they find themselves in all sorts of situations: Tommy’s pal Joe Pesci (yes, the actor) introduces them to a song writing prodigy by the name of Bob Gaudio. After a brief meeting, the guys bring Bob on board. They record some demo tapes but are rejected by many recording companies. In New York, they make contact with a producer named Bob Crewe, who signs them to a contract but they didn’t take the time to read the fine print. You can feel the frustration within the group. They want to be taken seriously as musicians and they want a proper recording contract, not just be backup vocals for other musical acts. After a few arguments and mishaps later, the group calls themselves “The Four Seasons” and Bob pens a hit song, “Sherry.”
Success comes at a price. Yes, there’s money, fame and attention – but there’s also lies, cheating and jealousy that comes with the territory. Bob continues to write more hit songs for the group, while Tommy gets deeper into debt. Frankie’s marriage to Mary erodes and he leaves her. Tommy, being the loud mouth wise guy that he is, gets the group into financial trouble, with of all people, an associate with ties to the infamous Five Families (the major Mob families of the time). The group starts to fall apart under suspicion, greed and jealousy. Frankie has problems with his daughter, who has run away from home and has become a drug addict. The group also pays off the debt that Tommy owed (which was almost $200,000 and that was a LOT of money at the time).
The movie goes on to showcase the group being entered into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. As the music comes to a close, the four men each have their say to the audience. Tommy ends up working for Joe Pesci. Nick has gone on to enjoy the peace and solitude of his family life. Bob retires to Nashville. Frankie states the fondest time of his life was when they were all together, just four guys from the hood, singing and dreaming away of what their future could be.
The movie is intercut with a lot of the music that the Four Seasons were famous for, but also goes on to show that in the music industry, if you don’t have both of your feet on solid ground and a good head on your shoulders, you won’t last long. Trust is a huge factor when becoming famous – because you don’t know who truly values you or who just wants to be friends with you in order to get ahead. Nicely laid out sets and costume designs give you a taste and feel for what the 1950s music scene and Jersey neighborhoods were like. I’d recommend this movie if you like to see documentary style movies that include a good combination of music and the drama behind it.
The Jersey Boys premieres on SATURDAY, April 04 at 8:00pm and replays throughout April on HBO and HBOGo. Enjoy it and sing along!