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The filmmakers know you've heard this tale before - true life chronicle of a young singing star's rise and tragic fall - and so they wisely downplay the standard bio trappings and instead focus on a raucously entertaining ride through Frankie Lymon's woman troubles. The smart screenplay revolves around the court battle of Lymon's three wives (yes, three!) over song royalties, leading to vivid (and often humorously contradictory) flashbacks of their lives with the singer. Larenz Tate is magnetic playing the many different sides of the ever-changing lead character, but the film ultimately belongs to Halle Berry, Vivica A. Fox and Lela Rochon as the wives. Each is allowed to shine as the trio portrays 30 years of changes in the women's lives, with Fox drop-dead hilarious as the most outrageous of the three. There's beautifully detailed '60s-era cinematography, sets, costuming and musical numbers, plus a side-splitting turn by Miguel Nunez as a young Little Richard. Major issues (such as '60s race relations) are barely glanced at, but what this film lacks in depth, it makes up for ten-fold in entertainment value. A winner!
"Why Do Fools Fall in Love" is somewhat flawed and takes quite a lot of
artistic liberties, but it's always fun to watch. Larenz Tate isn't
entirely convincing as Frankie Lymon--I guess they just cast him because
he's real short. The concert scenes and TV appearances where he sings are
noticeably lip-synched and look pretty cheesy. But acting-wise Tate did a
fine job. Obviously, they didn't really delve into his drug addiction, to
keep with its light-hearted feel. So we don't get to experience the heavy
drama of Lymon's short life. The actresses were good--Halle Berry, Vivica
A. Fox and Lela Rochon. Their performances were equally effective and
amusing. The great Little Richard has some spirited cameos. He definitely
brought the mood of the film to an all-time high. I just wish he could've
been in it for longer than 10 minutes. The whole movie basically
concentrates on the romantic-comedy portions of Lymon's life--some true,
some fabricated. There were some dramatic moments, but they occur mostly
towards the end. But I got a lot of laughs and the film just has a fitfully
satisfying upbeat tone. Of course, I LOVED the music. I have to admit that
was one of the main reasons I enjoyed it so much.
"Why Do Fools Fall in Love" is a moderately loose portrayal of Lymon's life, but it makes great entertainment.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Why Do Fools Fall In Love is an unexpected gem. In the previews it looks
like a movie-of-the-week bio of a long dead celebrity, but this is
a carefully crafted, well acted and visually fascinating film. With films
that claim to be based on actual events, it is important to consider that
those events have been interpreted by a writer, director, and actors.
Whether this film accurately portrays events in the life of 1950's singing
sensation Frankie Lymon is immaterial to the success if the film. The fact
remains, whether truthful or fictional, the film is interesting to look
entertainingly written, and cleverly constructed.
Director Gregory Nava has sculpted the film into a richly intertwined series of flashbacks, reminiscences and moments out of pop history. The performance scenes, where we see Frankie Lymon before an audience, either as a raw kid or as a fading icon, are wonderfully integral to the story, and not just blatant rationalization of the sound track cd on sale soon at music stores everywhere. Nava allows the innate energy of the music to flow into the film through lively editing, camera movement, colourful setting and costume. Particularly interesting are the long continuous Steadycam shots and the processing of footage to look like old home movies or 1950's live TV images.
Larenz Tate (The Postman) made an explosive impact early in his career with his role of O-Dog in Menace II Society, and then excelled on the short lived TV series South Central. Here, he is considerably reigned in either by the film makers, or by his own sense of how Lymon should be played. His performance, although capable, seems shallow at times and never really delivers any insight to what makes the man tick. The film makers knew that the strength of the story was in the perspective given it by the three women who each claim to be Lymon's widow and entitled to a share in his estate. The character of Lymon, as seen from these different points of view, is at times childishly naive, brutally malicious or tremendously generous and unselfish.
The film's best performance is from Vivica A. Fox (Booty Call, Independence Day) who plays Lymon's `first' wife Elisabeth Waters. Fox mixes a wry intelligence with a crude and unpolished demeanor to portray the woman who so loves Lymon in the decline of his career, that she will work as a prostitute to pay for his drug rehabilitation in a private clinic. The tragic irony of her pouring so much of herself into Lymon's empty shell is that she survives the giving while he can never find what he needs in the taking.
The two other wives are played very ably by Halle Berry (Bulworth) who appears as Zola Taylor of The Platters and Lela Rochon (Waiting To Exhale) as Emira Eagle. Zola is attracted by Lymon's talent and charisma and is so won over by his sincerity and her own belief in his character that she allows him to destroy all that she has earned as he destroys himself. Emira is the wholesome, God-fearing school teacher who finds the committed romantic in Lymon and manages to help him settle into a simple domesticity for a time before the call of his lost celebrity takes him from her in a last attempt to reclaim his fame.
The period detail is vivid and slides up and down a continuum that ranges from deliberately romanticized to unbearably sordid. The film makers have wisely avoided the trap of dwelling on Lymon's heroin addiction. There is very little portrayal of the actual use of drugs, just an examination of their effect on Lymon and on the lives the women who love him.
I don't believe this movie didn't do better in the ratings. I thought it was clever and entertaining. Halle Berry is beautiful and Larenz Tate was engaging as Frankie Lymon. Again, Gregory Nava is a director to watch for. I didn't realize he also did Selena and that was a movie I also enjoyed. Nothing heavy or slick, no action, fires, explosions, just good story telling about characters and their relationships with one another.
Other commentators seem to feel this is, or should have been, a movie about
the life of Frankie Lyman. However, as the title indicates, it is really
about three women who fell in love ... with a guy named Frankie Lyman. As
the movie brings home fairly early, there is not much about Frankie to love.
He is portrayed as a shallow, self-centered fool, with as little
understanding of the music business as of the women he scams into being his
Did Frankie have raw talent? Of course he did. Did Frankie do anything to develop this raw talent into an enduring musical career? No evidence of that. So much for Frankie. Larenz Tate plays him fairly well on stage, and rather flat off stage. We are not given a clue as to what the attraction may have been.
And, since two of the women were relatively unaware of his celebrity status when they were first taken with him, and the third had a celebrity status of her own, we expect the movie to answer the title question. The women do not entirely succeed in this, but they are terrifically watchable while they try.
Halle Berry is great as Zola Taylor, singer with the Platters. Viveca Fox is almost as good as the home girl who turns hooker to support Frankie, and Lela Rachon is perfect as the goodie-two-shoes last wife, a God-fearing and educated working woman.
The music scenes are good, and the courtroom scenes are outrageously unrealistic.
This would have been a better movie if they had not specifically based the story on Lyman, but only alluded to him. In this manner, the Hollywoodization of the story would have been less noticeable. Unfortunately, realizing that such a course would inevitably preclude using the Lyman hits, they chose to make this a triography of the wives, and allow them to play off Tate's weak Lyman persona.
All in all, a good couple of hours of enjoyment that is not too compelling. When it was over, we found ourselves asking, "Why DID these three fools fall in love?"
It was true in the '50s and still is today: it's no exaggeration to state that most hitmaking careers are over in 18 months. Teen idols fare the worst, and such was the fate of Frankie Lymon, who scored but three Top 20 hits between February 1956 and the summer of 1957: "Why Do Fools Fall In Love," "I Want You To Be My Girl" (both with The Teenagers) and "Goody Goody" (as a soloist). After that, the industry and music buyers considered him to be yesterday's former fresh face. And, like most young teens who become overnight sensations, Frankie's firework-long popularity came to cripple him later as a) people would not accept him as anything other than a 13-year-old and b) he was utterly unprepared to cope with real life once his flash of fame had ended. An insightful peek into Frankie Lymon's mercurial life would have made a great movie -- but this isn't it. Instead, we get only a superficial look at Lymon, as the movie focuses instead on the three women who claimed to be his wife. Lymon does not deserve to be shoved into the background of his own biopic, especially as his story is representative of the rise and fall of many flash-in-the-pan artists who find themselves revered by the public one minute and then dumped into history's ashcan the next -- often before they really reach the summit of their skills. (Believe me -- as the writer of "The History Of Rock 'n' Roll," I know this all too well.) The three women battling over his estate were more a footnote to his story than the real drama and far too much time is allocated to letting the three female leads each take a star turn. Yes, Zola Taylor was the best-known of the three, but she is portrayed following her run with The Platters as an in-the-money solo star headlining live shows with her giant hit "Only You." Are the producers kidding? Zola Taylor didn't even JOIN The Platters until AFTER "Only You" had become a million-seller! The Platters scored big as the most successful hitmaking singing group of the late '50s (1955-9), despite the fact that the "group" was really lead vocalist Tony Williams -- with the others as mere background singers. (What were The Doors, for example, without Jim Morrison?) Zola only sang lead on a couple of minor Platters chart items -- and after leaving the act, immediately sank into near total obscurity. The Platters' golden era ended in 1960 after Tony left on his ill-fated solo career. (I explored this in great detail while assembling a 60-track Platters career retrospective 3-CD box set.) None of The Platters really made much money at all -- as they were mere salaried employees of their manager, Buck Ram. Ram wrote much of their material, told them what to sing and how, produced their records, owned The Platters' name and (no surprise) kept nearly all of the loot himself. The portrayal of Morris Levy, who owned several labels including Gee (the recording home of Lymon and The Teenagers) was pretty accurate. Not all record labels screwed artists as thoroughly as Levy's did, but his methods were none too unusual for the time. In fact, they're not much different than what the industry does today!
An interesting (but flawed account) of the battle over pop star Frankie
Lymon's estate by three women claiming to be his widow...
The story portrayed here is actually semi-fictitious, but the background story of Frankie's life is entirely true.
From his starts as a fresh-faced Harlem kid to a haunted drug addict, Larenz Tate (one of the most underrated talents in Hollywood) shines as dreamer Frankie, and does well to give perspective to Frankie's conflicting attitudes towards his relationships with the women, which the script muddles- Frankie appears shallow yet introspective at the same time.
Halle Berry tries to make more of her understated and thin role as Zola Taylor, wifey no. 2, but provides an adequate performance.
The most developed of the three female characters, is Elizabeth Waters (Viveca A. Fox). Loyal yet dishonest, gritty Elizabeth is the only character aside from Frankie that seems to be real. This is a combined effort by the characterisation and the performance by Fox.
And Lela Rochon does very well cast against type, as a school marm dragged into this battle. Rochon clearly understands the character well, and manages to make her mark on the story despite being developed late into the film.
The period detail of this piece is well captured over the 20-odd years that this story is set (particularly the performances of Frankie with the Teenagers), and even the small scenes which provide insight into Frankie's younger days.
The main flaws of this film lie essentially in the struggle to develop some of the themes. As mentioned earlier, Frankie's reasons for bigamy are not established at all or how he copes this with this, or whether one of the wives in particular is lying about the legitimacy of her marriage.
Some of the characterisation is a bit thin, caused by some of the later events of the film and because this deep story of fame, loss, betrayal and torment has such a muddled structure the whole film comes across as sketchy by the end which clearly was not intended.
But never the less this is an adequate tribute, to the world of fame and its inevitable clingers-on, and those just caught up in the action. This will never be top of its genre however...
Why Do Fools Fall in Love? (1998) was an interesting picture about the
troubled life of Frankie Lymon. Three women claiming to be his wife are
in court to fight over his meager estate. Gregory Nava (fresh off of
SELENA) does a better job in capturing the lost soul that was Frankie
Lymon. But he just scratches the surface of this very bizarre and
complicated individual. Larenz Tate does one hell of a job in the role
of Frankie. His wives (Halle Berry, Vivica A. Fox, Lela Rochon) are
very good in their roles. An entertaining film that I wished was more
A good start but it needs to be fleshed out some more. Maybe Mr. Nava should have focused more on the group when they were younger and rising through the top of the charts. A younger actor would have been helpful as well (Frankie Lymon was a small dude). But the film wasn't all that bad, they even showed us a side of Mr. Lymon I never even knew existed. Not an offensive film, just a nice timer waster.
i think halle berry, viv fox, and lela rochon are tops!! great flick!! i bought it on DVD and cant stop watchin it!! wheres lela rochon lately though?? shes too talented to just leave films!! i think larenz tate did real good too~~~
"Why do fools fall in love" is the story of music legend Frankie Lymon, a 13 year old kid who brought Rock n' roll to middle America before anyone else in the 50's, and then as his voice changed he vanished from public life and into a world of junkies and has-beens. Several years after his death when the song he made famous, "Why do fools fall in love", became popular again 3 women all claiming to be his wife fought for the royalties. This is different from the standard rock biopic. It's told from 3 different perspectives, hence we see 3 different Frankies, all charming and talented, none satisfied or honest. You might keep away from this movie because it's from the director of the awful Selena, but dont. It's a little glossy but all honestly told and very well played, especially by Vivica A. Fox. Great twist ending too.
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