Clint Eastwood does Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons…
The past decade has given us a compelling, if not entirely positive, narrative for Clint Eastwood’s career.
As he opened the new century with a run of movies comprising Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby and the Iwo Jima movies, Eastwood was riding a splendid late period career peak. But the fire that burned in those films has dampened considerably.
Eastwood’s career worst was, of course, Hereafter – his life-after-death story whose climax, lest we forget, occured at the London Book Fair where Sir Derek Jacobi was signing copies of his Charles Dickens audio books.
At first glance, Jersey Boys feels like a similarly curious undertaking for Eastwood – an adaptation of a jukebox musical about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. But Eastwood is keen to examine the disconnect between the group’s private lives and their public undertakings, as well as the way that history is elevated to myth.
These are both familiar topics for Eastwood – and, like Bird, his Charlie Parker biopic, we can assume that he has some personal resonances for this project.
The story, too, is not without some meat on its bones: Valli and his cohorts came up through a rough New Jersey neighbourhood where the mob was prevalent, while founding guitarist Tommy DeVito is revealed to be as crooked as it gets.
But somewhere along the line it’s been neutered: Christopher Walken’s Mafia boss Angelo ‘Gyp’ DeCarlo is, for instance, is more cuddly grandpa figure than “methodical gangland executioner”, as he’s described in contemporaneous FBI’s files.
One minor but interesting piece of business, however, is the small role played in the story is the actor Joe Pesci, who was a childhood friend of Valli. Pesci employed Tommy DeVito as an assistant during the Ninenties, around the same time he made GoodFellas.
It may simply be coincidence, of course, but the name of his character in GoodFellas? Tommy DeVito…
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