At a recent office meeting, Bill Simmons expressed sincere doubts that anyone under the age of 70 would appreciate Clint Eastwood’s take on Jersey Boys. So naturally, he asked Grantland’s four college-aged interns to watch and critique it. Lightning round, assemble!
Mia Galuppo: So, I don’t know about you guys, but the biggest disappointment for me was that Joe Pesci didn’t play Joe Pesci. It just felt like a wasted opportunity.
Alex Shultz: We need to back up a little bit. On the way over to the movie theater, we ran into Pitbull. I have to say, seeing a transcendent musical talent in person really got me in the right mind-set for Frankie Valli.
Matt Borcas: YOU DIDN’T SEE PITBULL. I saw Pitbull, and alerted you to his presence after he walked by us. But yeah, Mr. Worldwide was a great tone-setter for Jersey Boys. Still waiting for his “December, 1963” remix with Wyclef Jean.
Anyway, any discussion of Jersey Boys needs to begin with John Lloyd Young’s voice. He sounded like a narcotized chipmunk, in the most endearing way possible. Let’s just say I was NOT able to replicate it during my post-movie shower.
Riley McAtee: Valli’s voice brings up the character arc that I really liked from him. He started out so boyish, something that was highlighted by his high-pitched wailing. But by the end of the movie I had forgotten all about his boyish beginnings because he had changed so much. Jersey made him a man.
Shultz: Man, that guy could croon. I thought it was cool how a grown man who sang like a choirboy could still be universally respected in the hyper-masculine 1950s Mafia utopia also known as New Jersey.
Galuppo: I mean, it was a different time. I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure people still thought leeches could cure Communism.
Borcas: Tommy DeVito’s fourth wall–breaking monologues (in which he delivers such groaners as, “You wanna hear a story?”) made me recoil. And also fall asleep. I woke up around the time Frankie refused to sign a contract with his songwriting partner, instead opting for a firm handshake — “a Jersey contract,” as he called it. At that point I decided to stop expecting subtlety and/or above-average dialogue from Jersey Boys and just go along for the ride. Best decision I’ve made in years.
McAtee: I’m someone who has never seen the Broadway musical this movie is based on. I also wasn’t familiar with any of the actors outside of Christopher Walken, so I came in with as blank of a slate as you could have. And after the first 20 minutes, when a heist goes horribly wrong, and later when a couple of mobsters fake a shooting as part of an elaborate scam, I was in.
Galuppo: What I found incredibly interesting about the movie was that it was both a musical and a music biopic. Unfortunately, this means that it had a tonal problem. Like a biopic, it wanted to be gritty and real and dramatic and all that Oscar-worthy jazz (see: Ray), but at the same time it was goofy and had conveniently placed musical numbers, as well as on-the-nose dialogue that was lifted directly from the original musical (see: Hairspray). Also, without a doubt, the movie should have had Joe Pesci playing Joe Pesci.
Shultz: My takeaways from the film are far less profound. One of the extras looked like Washington Wizards coach Randy Wittman, which I confirmed with Matt before he fell asleep. That was pretty cool.
Also, I’m not a big movie guy, so when I hear the name Clint Eastwood, the first thing that comes to mind is him talking to a chair at the 2012 Republican National Convention. [Editor’s note: He will be locked in a closet with a portable DVD player and a stack of Dirty Harry movies immediately.] With that limited impression in the back of my mind, I was legitimately impressed with his ability to direct and produce a major motion picture.
McAtee: Speaking of doppelgängers in the movie, one of the music studio guys at the end was the spitting image of Mike Ditka. It made me wish that they’d actually cast Ditka. Definitely a top five moment in the film for me.
Borcas: My favorite part was the group’s emotional reunion at the 1990 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, 25 years after their last meeting, where everyone’s facial features were digitally aged, Harry Potter epilogue-style. Nothing says “rock and roll” quite like the 38-year-old Young playing an elderly Frankie Valli. Truly a sight to behold.
Shultz: OK, let’s wrap this up: one sentence to describe your favorite Jersey Boys character and one sentence for your favorite song … GO!
Galuppo: Pesci (Joseph Russo) for his comedic relief and his future role in Goodfellas and “December, 1963” because I like songs with month/dates in the title (e.g., “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire and “March 12, 1997” by Banjo Jones and the Calendar Boys).
Shultz: I enjoyed Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda), who was the sorta dumb, low-toned foil to the other members of the Four Seasons. “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” is easily the group’s best song — its gradual buildup from a slow, silky love ballad to a raucous, rock-and-roll chorus is the 1960s version of waiting for the bass to drop.
McAtee: Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) carried this movie for me. From his scheming in the first half to the problems he caused later, he was the film’s motor. I agree about “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” — I might get the soundtrack just for that.
Borcas: I feel blessed to have witnessed Annie O’Donnell’s performance as a wine-guzzling nun, which was completely extraneous to the plot but nonetheless SO JERSEY. The best song was the one they stole from Fergie: “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” I welled up a bit listening to it, so I’m clearly not a big girl.
Official Grantland intern rating: 10/10.