I love Gregory Nava....this film left a lot to be desired...
D. Pawl | Seattle | 06/15/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"One of my favorite contemporary directors, today, is the great filmmaker, Gregory Nava. Nava is known best for the powerful EL NORTE, MI FAMILIA (MY FAMILY) and SELENA. He has great ability to combine warm humor with high drama, and [oftentimes] succeeds in shaping very compelling characters in the great stories he tells. Unfortunately, I don't feel that this really took place in WHY DO FOOLS FALL IN LOVE.
Frankie Lymon (Larenz Tate) was a legend, during his heyday. At thirteen years old, he was the lead singer of Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. He also co-wrote the hit "Why Do Fools Fall In Love." This catapulted him into stardom, during the height of the do-wop era, in the United States. Not only was a trailblazer, due to his young age, but The Teenagers were a multiracial group, at a time where that was pretty progressive (the mid-1950s). Two of his band members were Puerto Rican, and Lymon and the other Teenagers were African-American. Success seemed synonymous with the name Frankie Lymon, but, as they say, "everyone will get their fifteen minutes of fame." Frankie's success took a u-turn, once his voice changed, and he began his descent into heroin addiction. In between his highs (and catastrophic lows--including the turbulent break-up between Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers), that left time and room for him in his schedule to get married to three women--at the same time! Of course, it wasn't nearly as straightforward as that. Botched court papers, troubles with addiction and unfinalized divorces led to this predicament. In the 1980s, the three women met face to face, and went on to take each other on in court, to determine who was to inherit Lymon's $4 million fortune. This co-stars Halle Berry, Lela Rochon and Vivica A. Fox, as the wives in question.
I found myself shaking my head in disappointment, thinking, "Ay, Gregory Nava, what were you thinking?" Okay, for starters, "Why Do Fools Fall In Love" is a great song. I won't argue with that. However, the song is almost constantly playing as the background soundtrack for this dramedy. I'm not exaggerating. It's great the first few times, but once you've heard it about ten times, you begin to wonder who was editing the film (or if editing even occurred). The other songs from the era are really great, classic tunes. They are undeniably catchy, but there are times where they feel more than a little manipulative. It's almost as though the director was relying on the music as a crutch for the film, so we'd forget the [slightly] melodramatic camera angles, uproarious emotional outbursts and shots of Lymon coming down or riding the high of his heroin use. Larenz Tate lipsynchs as well he can, and I do feel that he did a believeable job, playing Lymon here. However, Halle Berry (as Zola Taylor, female singer for The Platters), Vivica A. Fox (as Elizabeth Waters, a perpetual shoplifter) and Lela Rochon (as Elmira Eagle) felt more like caricatures to me than anything else. We have our diva, bad girl and church-going good girl. Three very different women for the three very different faces of the manipulative lothario, Frankie Lymon. And, he managed to fool all of them, equally. I realize that it's hard to portray the events of this story without it coming off as much more than an exploitative tabloid, due to the subject matter. Lymon tragically died of a heroin overdose at age twenty-five, just when he was contemplating getting his singing career together, after a long draught. It was very sad and unfortunate, and he was undeniably talented. What's more, the effect of his narcissism and addiction problems left tracks marks on many of his relationships. This wasn't a tribute, but more of an excuse to air the dirty laundry of someone too sick (and dead too many years), and it shows."