What if your life ambition is to be one of the Jersey Boys and it’s not happening for you? What if fulfillment meant living out an inherited obsession to become Frankie Valli? What if you’re Eddie telling The Cruisers that if you can’t be great, there’s just no point? This is the premise of Pat Bradley and Nick Buscarino’s film Into The Valli.
Chris “Frankie” Parrella (Sean Borderes) is abandoned by his parents when his mother Margaret (Jamie Ragusa) has a nervous breakdown, and his father Anthony (Douglas Taurel) strikes out to pursue a career as a crooner, fixated on re-creating the success of Frankie Valli. From that point into adulthood, Chris adopts this obsession as well, as a link to his father.
Chris calls himself Frankie and sings (badly) at contests in bars, exclusively the songs of the Four Seasons. He has a daughter named Cheri, and another named Dawn because, of course, he does. After repeated failures in career and life, Chris concludes that what’s missing in his approach to becoming a flesh avatar of Frankie Valli, is enough life-altering pain to inform his performance with adequate emotional gravitas. He ain’t got them delta blues. This is in contrast to viewers of the film, who, I assure you, will suffer sufficiently. There’s no logic to this epiphany, as Chris has inflicted upon himself and those around him a lifetime of agony and neglect as he chases a phantom. He could have saved us all from this film by seeing a good therapist.
“…fulfillment meant living out an inherited obsession to become Frankie Valli..“
The character study of dysfunction is solidly executed. That quality doesn’t mean you will enjoy the film. Bucking the Hollywood formula is a noteworthy aspiration but does not redeem a story of an emotionally ill man who is ultimately willing to take any unhinged measures his twisted psyche suggests to prop up a lifelong delusion. You will spend the whole film wishing Chris (or someone) would put a gun in his mouth and ride the bullet train out of town. He’s an unsympathetic asshole. Particularly egregious is his murder of one of my favorite songs, December ‘63, though that is far from the worst of his sins.
The females in the film are thin stereotypes: baby girl, shrew, and whore. The prominent black character is a drug dealer. It feels like this was written in between whiskey shots with Tony and Paulie at Bada Bing (if it was, I apologize profusely, take it all back, and would like to change my answer, please?).
There seems to be confusion about what genre Into the Valli belongs. It plays like a mash-up of Walk The Line and The Shining. Can the musical universe bleed into the horror universe? It’s worth mentioning that famous musicians with personal demons are easily forgiven of their faults in biopics because fans already like the performer. We never heard of Chris “Frankie” Parrella, and we don’t give a damn what happens to him.
As Chris, on the other hand, Sean Borderes pours himself into portraying angst and the bright fire of mania in a powerful performance. The actresses in the film dutifully march through their appointed tropes, doing what they can to make the characters interesting. The soundtrack, photography, and editing are all up to par. Given the high quality of this production, everyone in front of and behind the camera deserved a better script. Add a demerit for the title: it’s a bad, obvious pun, and way too on the nose.
The goal of film is to evoke an emotional response. Revulsion and irritation are emotions, so by that standard, the film succeeds. Possibly this is too harsh; the film was simply not my cup of tea, it might be yours.
Into The Valli (2018). Written and directed by Pat Bradley, Nick Buscarino. Starring Sean Borderes, Douglas Taurel, Tia Link, Hollin Haley.
6 out of 10