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When the scenes changes to Lamberton Prison in 1985, Diana Ross' version of "Why Do Fools" is more than once referred to as a new hit, when in fact, it was released in 1981. See more »
Do you love him?
I told you, Frankie. He's a nice, good man...
I didn't ask that! I asked you do you love him?
YES! I love him, okay?
Oh, no, no... You said that marriage would tie you down. You just didn't want to be tied down to me.
No, I never said that, Frankie.
Oh, yeah, that's what you said. Now, let me tell you something. You gonna always be tied down to me. Whether you like it ot not. We're like magnets...
[forcefully kisses Zola]
[pushes Frankie away]
Mm-mmm. Don't do this to me, Frankie...
[...] See more »
Director Gregory Nava misunderstands the complex, drug-addicted Frankie Lymon getting some of it right and much of it wrong.
His fatal mistake from beginning to end is playing Frankie as a late teen instead of the 13 teen year old he was. This deprives one and all of seeing the simple true source of Frankie's problems. Too much fame, too fast and too young. Larenz Tate struggles with the role where he sometimes looks more like a young Sammy Davis than Frankie. The singing and dancing sequences are acceptable and Tate brings the music off adequately.
The racial issues, which the film deals with, have some truth, but the details are inaccurate. In 1957 audiences in some venues were segregated, but in others were mixed and not a problem. The idea that this music helped end segregation is mentioned, but not really seen, except for the incredible scene of Frankie dancing with a white girl on 'The Big Beat'. This big surprise is very effectively handled and has major impact.
I don't think Nava understands doo-wop or the relationship of the lead singer to the backups. There is a big difference between the Platters, essentially a white pop adultish Ink Spots type group and the Teenagers who were rock 'n' roll, appealing to those under 21. This just never comes across.
Nava does do some clever things, pointed out in the director's cut (not recommended, way too 'Goody, Goody') as he uses a continuous roll camera to suck you in and wrap you around the scene he is filming.
The attempts to stylize 'Fools' mostly works. The theme of creating the four main characters as Earth (Lela Rochon as Emira Eagle), Fire (Halle Berry as Zola Taylor), Water (Vivca Fox as Elizabeth Waters) as the 3 wives to play off Wind (Tate-Frankie) is clever and consistent. The use of scatchy 8MM flash backs is a bit over done, but gets the point of flashbacks across.
All three of the parts of the wives suffer from being overly dramatic (and over acted)with the need to fit truth to the story, rather than the other way around.
Most disturbing is the handling of Frankie's music. Its hard to tell his solo work from his Teenagers stuff and the sequencing of the music is out of order. At least Nava makes it clear Frankie was not a 'One hit wonder' and he had four years of outstanding singles and (not mentioned at all) some super albums, mostly as a solo. As one of the wives mentions, above all "he could sing my panties off". If you don't think so, play Frankie's version of "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" followed by the weak, sad Diana Ross version.
Next time Mr. Gregory Nava when doing an autobiography spend as much time keeping your facts straight and in order, as you do with clever stylization.
Not recommended unless your a fan of any of the elements involved. Wanna a good music bio from more or less the same period and effectively dealing with drug addiction, watch "Ray" the magnificent Ray Charles story.
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