May is waiting for her boyfriend in a run-down American motel, when an old flame turns up and threatens to undermine her efforts and drag her back into the life that she was running away from. The situation soon turns complicated.
May is hiding out at an old motel in the Southwest. Eddie, her half-brother, also an old flame shows up. He threatens her metaphorically and, at times, literally drags her back into the life she had fled from. The film focuses on the couple's fluctuating past and present relationships, and the dark secrets hidden within, including one from an old man who lives near the motel (Harry Dean Stanton).
"Fool for Love" is one of the several now forgotten films Robert Altman directed throughout the 1980s. This one, a screen adaptation of a Sam Shepard play that features Shepard in the lead role, just simply isn't very good. Altman made many not-very-good films over the course of his fascinating career, and many times the fault was his. But here I think the fault lies with Shepard for writing such a flimsy play. Altman's direction is assured, the performances are o.k. given what the actors have to work with, but this inconsequential screenplay goes nowhere, and takes its time getting there.
Shepard is Eddie, a stuntman who has a love/hate relationship with May (Kim Basinger). The two fight endlessly over the course of an evening spent in some dusty motel in the middle of nowhere, while a mysterious man (Harry Dean Stanton) who may be either a figurative or literal father to both Eddie and May quietly observes. Randy Quaid rounds out the four-person cast as a gentleman caller.
The only dramatic hook in the entire plot is the suggestion that Eddie's and May's relationship is incestuous. However, this hook feels more like a gimmick than anything. The screenplay doesn't explore their relationship in any detail, and it doesn't use their relationship to explore any more universal themes. Shepard and Basigner create eccentric, mannered characters who grow irritating within the first five minutes; Stanton and Quaid have little to do but provide reaction shots.
The last half hour or so of the film is especially bad, when Eddie's and May's back stories begin to play out in flashback over monotone, somnolent voice over.
Chalk this up to another of Altman's experiments gone awry.
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