June 20, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tom Long

Review: Melancholy 'Jersey Boys' still reaches high notes

John Lloyd Young stars as Frankie Valli in 'Jersey Boys.' (Keith Bernstein / Warner Bros.)

For all its ebullient music, nostalgic wisecracks and rising star upbeat tempos, director Clint Eastwood’s adaptation of the musical “Jersey Boys” is often a melancholy meditation on the price of fame and the elusive nature of family.

The “Jersey Boys” in question are, of course, the Four Seasons, the vocal group that rode high on the charts in the early and mid-’60s and then gave birth to singer Frankie Valli’s long career.

The story starts in the ’50s with the young Valli (John Lloyd Young) working in a barbershop, being urged to practice singing by older scoundrel/guitarist Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) and local mobster Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken).

After some underworld shenanigans, Frankie takes the stage and, with bass player Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda), the band begins to gel. Things take a giant leap forward when wholesome songwriter/keyboardist Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) is brought in, and soon the hits begin flowing.

But, as in all rising star stories, bumps appear. On a practical level it turns out Tommy is something of a major meatball when it comes to finances, and he pretty much squanders the fortune the band has made.

More important to Eastwood is the personal cost of working in the entertainment business (he should know). Frankie marries early, then when success hits, he finds himself constantly on the road, constantly encountering temptation, and he becomes a stranger to his own family.

Still, none of this is so heavy it can weigh down the giddy falsetto teen celebrations that were the songs of the Four Seasons, and Eastwood brings an easy, sure hand to the book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice. “Jersey Boys” hits the high notes with ease, and offers the low ones for contemplation.

'Jersey Boys'

GRADE: B

Rated R for language throughout

Running time: 134 minutes

tlong@detroitnews.com
twitter.com/toomuchTomLong